North Korea published this photo of disease control officials in protective suits on May 13. (Rodong Sinmun)

North Hamgyong Province has recently organized a team of military and civilian volunteers to help people in home quarantine, Daily NK has learned.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday that based on a decision by the province’s party committee, the authorities have put together a provincial “military-civilian volunteer team” to help provincial residents in home quarantine.

The team is composed of personnel from all emergency quarantine organizations in the province, as well as units under the army’s Ninth Corps, local paramilitary units and members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards.

According to the source, the team is operating as a temporary organization, splitting work locality-to-locality. The party committee has decided to keep the team going until the end of the country’s “emergency quarantine period.”

The team reportedly goes out everyday clad in protective clothing, masks, gloves and other quarantine gear to deliver not only grain, vegetables, salt and soybean paste collected by the party and people’s committees and military units, but even kindling such as firewood and coal briquettes. 

Meanwhile, North Hamgyong Province reports statistics on new fever cases, full recoveries and deaths to the State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command at 5:30 PM each day. With the number of cases rising on a daily basis, provincial officials are said to be very afraid of punishment from their superiors. 

“People keep dying because of lack of medicine or they are starving to death in quarantine,” said the source. “So officials are scared that the leadership — asking what must be done to prevent this — will shift responsibility for this onto provincial officials and quarantine workers.”

The source said local officials cannot report proper statistics because the national government is pressuring them, warning them against asking the state for help. “Why do provincial, city and county cadres exist?” they ask, demanding local officials exercise self-reliance. This suggests that North Korea’s official statistics may not reflect reality. 

The source said while the volunteer team is ostensibly temporary, the province is using them to scour food in the region for quarantined individuals.

“But since you can’t get blood from a stone, cadres are crying that this, too, will do only for a day or two,” he said.

He added that although the provincial party committee claims the province is doing well in the “great quarantine battle,” it is pushing cadres to “take the lead in offering rice, vegetables, salt, soybean paste and kindling,” with local party leaders stressing that “the province must not fall behind other [provinces].”

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.