face masks
Workers at a textile factory in Pyongyang making face masks. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

Following North Korea’s announcement of its implementation of a “maximum emergency quarantine system,” factories in the country’s provinces have begun emergency production of disease control-related supplies on orders from the State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command (SEAC).

“With the move to the maximum emergency quarantine system, SEAC ordered all factories in the provinces to join the ‘battle’ to produce masks, gloves, protective clothing, protective shoes and disinfectants,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on May 19.

According to the source, the government issued an emergency order seeking the cooperation of factories to urgently overcome the shortage of disease control-related products at a time when the country’s medical and economic infrastructure are unable to cope with the spread of COVID-19.

The source explained that there is a huge lack of disease control-related supplies in North Korea and that even if public health authorities focus on disease prevention and medical treatments, they do not have all the supplies they need.

For example, doctors and quarantine officials must check the conditions of registered patients several times a day, but are afraid to come into contact with them because they lack protective clothing, he said.

North Korea recently began mobilizing its citizens to help out with the country’s spring planting, but concerns have been raised about the spread of mass infection due to the lack of masks at a time when physical distancing is necessary but impossible.

In response to these concerns, SEAC has ordered textile, paper, shoe, and clothing factories in each province to “focus on the production of masks, gloves, protective clothing, and other essentials for disease prevention that are currently lacking in the transition to the maximum emergency quarantine system,” the source said.

In short, the government instructed factories to start emergency production of the supplies as quickly as possible. 

“Following SEAC’s instructions, all government agencies including the party committee and the people’s committee of North Hamgyong Province have been running themselves ragged to [ensure that factories] fulfill daily production quotas,” said the source. 

North Hamgyong Province, for its part, has ordered that emergency textile supplies be distributed to factories that are operational among the around 30 small and large plants in the province. The province has also ordered that guards thoroughly monitor the factories to prevent raw materials and finished products from being stolen.

The translator requested anonymity. 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.