A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK yesterday that a fire broke out at People’s Hospital No. 2 in Songbong District, Hyesan, on Jan. 7. Nobody was hurt or wounded, but “almost all the medical equipment was burnt up,” according to the source.
North Korean authorities had declared a “special patrol period” (initially to Jan. 15, later extended to the end of the month) in regions along the Sino-North Korean border.
The provincial Ministry of Social Security conducted an investigation into the blaze, rounding up everyone involved in the incident, and quickly discovered the cause of the fire. Electricity had been provided to the hospital during the party congress period, but carelessness on the part of a worker at the hospital led to the incident.
Investigators, however, are continuing to investigate the fire, claiming “hidden impure elements intentionally started the fire to ruin the party congress.” This is a typical ploy to promote internal unity by turning simple accidents into political issues.
The authorities have also ordered residents to contribute money and valuables or labor to the restoration efforts.
The source said locals are dumbfounded by the government’s order. “Everyone is complaining that they’ve been ordered to contribute when they’re [already] having a tough time even surviving day-to-day because of the coronavirus,” the source said.
Opposition to the order appears particularly strong because North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spoke of eradicating “the imposition of extra economic burdens on the people” during the Eighth Party Congress.
In his closing address to the Eighth Party Congress on Jan. 12, the North Korean leader stated: “We must give precedence to vigorous education and strict discipline in the entire Party and the whole country and amongst all the people, so as to staunchly suppress and control all forms of anti-socialist, non-socialist practices revealed in all fields of social life and all sorts of criminal acts such as the abuse of power, bureaucratism, corruption and imposition of extra economic burdens on the people.”