DPRK Traces Covid Outbreak to ‘Alien Things’ Touched by Soldier, Student Near South Korean Border
© AP Photo / Jon Chol JinFILE - An employee of the Kyonghung Foodstuff General Store disinfects the showroom in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Before acknowledging domestic COVID-19 cases, Thursday, May 12, 2022, North Korea spent 2 1/2 years rejecting outside offers of vaccines and steadfastly claiming that its superior socialist system was protecting its 26 million people from “a malicious virus” that had killed millions around the world.
© AP Photo / Jon Chol Jin
A new report published by the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) purports to have tracked down the first cases of COVID-19 that entered the country, tracing the outbreak to two young men in the country’s south.
The report was published on Friday by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a state-run news and television station.
"The investigation results showed that several persons coming from the area of Ipho-ri in Kumgang County in Kangwon Province to the capital city in mid-April were in fever," the report said, according to the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency. "A sharp increase of fever cases was witnessed among their contacts and a group of fevered persons emerged in the area of Ipho-ri for the first time."
The first people to contract the mysterious illness, which was later identified as the Omicron B.A.2 subvariant of COVID-19, were an 18-year-old soldier with the surname Kim and a five-year-old kindergartener with the surname Wi. It notes they came in contact “with alien things” near residential quarters in Ipho-Ri in early April.
“With the confirmation of the epidemic inroads course, the State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters saw to it that an emergency instruction was issued: an instruction stressing the need to vigilantly deal with alien things coming by wind and other climate phenomena and balloons in the areas along the demarcation line and borders and trace their source to the last, strengthen the all-people supervision and report system, in which anyone notifies of alien things instantly after seeing them, and tighten such anti-epidemic measures as making the emergency anti-epidemic teams strictly remove those things,” the report concludes.
Since early 2020, after the COVID-19 outbreak began in neighboring China, the DPRK closed its borders in an effort to keep the virus at bay, although that didn’t stop rumors about hidden outbreaks from spreading even faster through the Western press.
However, without a mass vaccination program like China’s to complement the travel ban, once the virus did enter the unvaccinated population, it spread like wildfire. Beijing has since rushed millions of masks, vaccines, and other safety equipment to the DPRK, but Pyongyang still refuses help from the US and UN.
As of Wednesday, the state epidemic agency has detected more than 4.7 million cases of COVID-19 in the country of roughly 25.8 million people, and detected 4,730 new cases that day. No information about deaths has been released, but judging by the US’ death rate of 0.01%, about 54,500 people in DPRK are likely to have died from the illness, most of them elderly.