A large number of students and faculty at North Korea’s prestigious Kim Jong Un National Defense University recently began suffering from stomach pain caused by contaminated water, Daily NK has learned. 

“On Mar. 22, about 20 students at the Kim Jong Un National Defense University collapsed after complaining of stomach pains. The students had been drinking tap water that hadn’t been boiled beforehand,” a source in the country told Daily NK on Mar. 25. 

“Another 50 people began suffering from similar symptoms the next day, including students, members of the school’s faculty, and even local residents living near the university,” he added. 

Those suffering from symptoms have been treated at three different hospitals, including the military hospital within the university, a hospital in the Ryongsong District of Pyongyang, and the hospital attached to the Academy of National Defense Science, Daily NK sources confirmed. 

CONTAMINATED TAP WATER

The authorities are reportedly conducting an investigation under the suspicion that the tap water supplied to the university was contaminated. 

“The Ministry of State Security (MSS) office affiliated with the National Defense University has been interrogating those responsible for managing the water supply system,” one source said. “It seems as though the water tank was not properly sterilized with chemicals the day of the incident.”

Pyongyang’s Chungi District — where the National Defense University is located — is known for its poor water quality because of underground limestone deposits. Government officials are reportedly extremely embarrassed by the incident given the special attention they have paid to ensure the water supply remains uncontaminated.  

The incident was immediately reported to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim is known to be extremely attached to the university, given that he named it after himself.

Immediately after hearing about the incident, Kim reportedly ordered that the incident be thoroughly investigated and the water supply facilities thoroughly cleaned. 

TREKKING TO CLEAN WATER

City residents who live near the National Defense University reportedly share one water tank with university students and faculty, which explains why both students, faculty and nearby residents came down sick. 

An engineering unit attached to the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) is currently isolating the water supply between nearby residents and the university. 

On Mar. 23, local authorities reportedly distributed print-outs about their plans to isolate the water supplies along with guidelines about how to safely consume tap water. 

“The authorities are essentially telling locals that they will have to do without running water for the time being. Instead, people have to draw their water from a spring near a revolutionary site in nearby Oun District,” one source told Daily NK. “They’re also telling us to boil all drinking water first.” 

Pyongyang’s Oun District is about two kilometers away from Chungi District. 

“Locals are now walking all the way to the spring in Oun District to draw water that’s safe to drink,” the source said. “The authorities realized people were suffering having to go all that way, so they sent a truck capable of transporting three tons of water around the neighborhood to distribute drinking water.” 

Kim Jong Un National Defense University, which is currently in the midst of preparing for Kim Il Sung’s birthday on Apr. 15, has reportedly declared a state of emergency to deal with the situation. 

“Workers are trying to get the tap water back up and running while faculty are busy tending to the health of the students,” one source told Daily NK. 

“Everyone is working extremely hard to ensure that everything is back to normal by Apr. 10,” he added.

Daily NK reported late last year that the university suffered from serious power shortages.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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

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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.