Why North Korea Now Lets Us Know Corona Will Hit: “They’re Panicked”


North Korea has suddenly become open about the corona situation in the country in recent days. Chief Kim Jong-un even called it a “major disaster”. But the fact that the closed country is suddenly releasing figures has its reasons, experts say in a conversation with NU.nl. At the same time, it looks like there’s really something going on in the country, “and so big, there’s no denying it.”

“I’m absolutely worried. It’s not easy at the best of times to be North Korean, but certainly not now,” said Korean expert Remco Breuker of Leiden University.

According to Breuker, there are several reasons why North Korea is now open about the corona situation. “Judging by the first communication from the state news agency, it seems that the most contagious omikron variant has hit in the capital, among the elite. I think they are panicking,” said the Korean expert.

He thinks North Korea has “always managed to keep the situation somewhat in control” over the past two years. Even then, the North Koreans suffered a lot, he points out, but the current situation does not seem to stop despite the heavy measures.

“Few people think that North Korea has been corona-free all this time, even though it was locked down so quickly that it may have been able to suppress everything initially,” said Korean expert Casper van der Veen. . . According to him, lucky that the country has remained completely corona-free, partly because it shares a 1,400 kilometer border with China.

Van der Veen points out that North Korea currently releases very little information. And the figures he brings out are not very reliable. “We have no idea how serious the situation is.”

A speech by Kim Jong-Un on North Korean television.

Politics also plays a role

Another reason North Korea is releasing information about the situation is because it is aggressively positioning itself overseas, Breuker believes. North Korea, for example, resumed missile testing last week and preparations are underway for a nuclear test. It also allows them to allow themselves to be a bit weaker, he says. “It sounds paradoxical, but it’s also typical of how North Korea comes out.”

Breuker also points to the “difficult period” that North Korea has been through. For example, the border with China was tightly closed, leading to food shortages. As a result, the country has little resilience: food shortages have not been met and there is also a lack of medicines or resources to treat people. “It was already little, but now even less.”

Apart from the political reasons, Van der Veen also believes that the situation in North Korea itself is the reason for the opening. “It looks like something is really going on, and so big it’s undeniable.”

Van der Veen explains that the country’s healthcare system is completely unprepared for a corona outbreak. For example, there is no massive testing capacity, which means many fever cases cannot be tested for corona. Also, to our knowledge, no one has been vaccinated, “except perhaps a few members of the elite”. Hospital shortages and malnutrition due to food shortages mean “this has all the ingredients to make it very bad”.

It is unclear whether North Korea will accept aid

“I also think they realize that if they don’t want to go under, help has to come,” Breuker said. Russia, China and South Korea have already pledged to help.

Whether North Korea accepts this aid depends, according to Breuker, on the seriousness of the situation. “Basically they want to accept it, otherwise they never would have released it, but on their terms. And we don’t know what that will be.”

Van der Veen also doubts that North Korea will accept foreign aid. “For the past few years, they were terrified of accepting things from abroad, lest the virus might come.” For example, the country rejected donations from the COVAX Immunization Assistance Program. “North Korea can certainly use the aid, but it’s unclear whether it will accept it.”

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