North Korea recalled some of its key officials based in China back to North Korea in late January and they are currently being quarantined in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, due to concerns about the Wuhan coronavirus, Daily NK has learned.

“Because of the [Wuhan] coronavirus, people can’t enter China any more, nor can people in China return to North Korea,” a source in North Korea told Daily NK yesterday.

“The top 1% of officials in China, however, were all recalled back to North Korea and are now being isolated from the general population,” he added.

The “top 1% of officials” the source referred to include Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) officials involved in North Korea’s military-industrial complex and foreign currency-earning activities.

“The recall order was send down the line on Jan. 23, and the officials all returned to North Korea on Jan. 27. None of them have been allowed to go back to Pyongyang,” the source added.

Usually, WPK officials head to Pyongyang immediately after returning from duty abroad. Due to the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, however, the recalled officials are reportedly being forced to stay in Sinuiju.

Daily NK sources reported that the officials are staying in two or three hotels in Sinuiju and are being monitored by North Korean disease control authorities. One source told Daily NK that North Korean authorities in Sinuiju have cleared out at least one hotel to make room for the officials.

Despite all of the precautions, North Korean authorities have placed the recalled officials into groups of threes in each hotel room. Daily NK sources said that this is aimed at ensuring the officials keep an eye out on each other for ideologically troublesome activity.

The recalled officials are also taking part in debriefings conducted by WPK Central Committee officials aimed at understanding any changes in their ideological beliefs or loyalty toward the regime. Normally, officials returning abroad would face these debriefings, which can last up to a month, immediately upon their arrival in Pyongyang.

Officials from the Organization and Guidance Department of the WPK’s Central Committee in Pyongyang have been deployed from Pyongyang to Sinuiju to conduct these debriefings, sources reported.

“The recalled officials will be quarantined in the city for around two weeks, but if an outbreak occurs then they may have to stay there for longer,” one source told Daily NK. “The recalled officials are all involved in making money for the regime, so the leadership is under pressure about what to do with them because they’re too valuable to keep cooped up.”

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