A Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province reported recently that North Korean authorities held a lecture for communist party members, workers and cadres claiming that the return of a defector allegedly infected with COVID-19 has “heightened the threat” of a COVID-19 outbreak in the country. 

The source told Daily NK on Monday that the lecture was held on Aug. 1 and emphasized the threat of an outbreak of COVID-19 while mentioning the recent incident involving a North Korean defector crossing over the inter-Korean border back into North Korea. 

The lecturer reportedly informed participants that stronger disease control measures will be implemented and that the return of the “runway to South Korea” has “destroyed” North Korea’s “air-tight anti-epidemic system,” which, they claimed, had previously prevented any COVID-19 cases. 

The lecture claimed the runaway to South Korea was infected with the virus and that an order had been issued to carry out strong quarantine measures to prevent the situation from getting even more out of hand,” the source said. “[These measures] included a total ban on all travel across the country and stronger restrictions on vehicles and motorcycles [trying to] pass through No. 10 checkpoints.” 

Notably, the lecturer announced stronger controls on vehicles by having all guard posts at the borders between cities and counties in the province begin 24-hour operations until the central government orders an end to such measures. 

The lecturer also made it clear that all travel permits – except those for “important business” – will not be issued anymore and warned that anyone caught engaging in “unapproved conduct” will be subject to legal punishment, irrespective of whether they are officials or party members.

Locals who attended the lecture came away unhappy, complaining that there is no way to earn a living without crossing city or county borders and that prices have spiked by 300-400% due to the lack of goods flowing into the province. Some even concluded that there appears to be “no hope for the future.”

“There were murmurs at the lecture hall that there is no difference between dying of starvation and dying from the virus, so it would be better for [the authorities] to open a separate channel for the distribution of goods,” the source said. 

The lecture also reportedly mentioned that the number of homeless people (kkotjebi) within the province had risen to a level on par with the 1990s. The lecturer ended the talk by insisting “as long as we have the wise guidance of comrade Kim Jong Un, this is just a temporary phenomenon, so let’s do our best to get through it.” This was reportedly met with open displays of despondency from attendees.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.