The cumulative number of soldiers in the North Korean military’s 24 COVID-19-related quarantine facilities has surpassed 50,000, according to a Daily NK source in the country. 

A high-ranking source in North Korea told Daily NK on Thursday that each branch of the North Korean military runs quarantine facilities for suspected cases of COVID-19.

The army, for example, has 17 such facilities, while the navy and air force have three and four facilities, respectively, for a total of 24 facilities. This is 15 more facilities than the number of civilian quarantine facilities Daily NK has uncovered through its own reporting. 

Daily NK previously reported that North Korean authorities currently operate nine civilian quarantine facilities throughout the country. 

In terms of military quarantine facilities, the army reportedly operates its facilities at temporary buildings erected next to military hospitals attached to corps commands in Gangwon Province and South Pyongan Province. The navy, for its part, runs facilities in Sungho County, North Hwanghae Province, and Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, as well as in Nampo. Meanwhile, the air force operates facilities in Kaechon County and Onchon County in South Pyongan Province and Kyongsong County in North Hamgyong Province.

The Central Anti-epidemic Committee affiliated with the military’s health authorities oversees the facilities, while the military’s administrative department and General Hospital No. 11, a combined services military hospital, handle day-to-day operations.

The total number of military personnel admitted to these facilities from the start of this year to the end of November was 54,620, including 43,000 soldiers, 6,200 seamen and 5,420 airmen.

Daily NK previously reported that an accumulated total of 81,000 people have been isolated at state designated quarantine facilities for civilians as of Nov. 1. 

covid quarantine
Disease control officials testing drivers for COVID-19 symptoms in Pyongyang’s Manggyongdae District. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Based on these figures, the total number of military personnel and civilians suspected of having COVID-19 who have been quarantined at these facilities at some point equals 135,620 people. Presuming that all of these cases are confirmed cases of COVID-19, this would mean that 0.54% of North Korea’s population of 25 million has been infected with the virus. 

This figure is significant when compared to the global infection rate of 0.8%, which was calculated by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Nov. 29 and was based on 61,866,635 cases worldwide.

Given the poor state of North Korea’s health system, however, it is hard to conclude that all the quarantined individuals are confirmed cases and it is possible North Korea’s undisclosed figures include people suffering from pneumonia or underlying respiratory diseases. That is to say, North Korean health officials would have had a difficult time making accurate diagnoses.

Meanwhile, a significant number of soldiers have reportedly died in the military’s COVID-19 quarantine facilities. According to the source, 4,180 military personnel have died in the facilities, including 2,800 soldiers, 920 seamen and 460 airmen. This would mean 7.65% of those quarantined have perished.

According to a recent WHO report, however, there are 706 people currently in North Korean quarantine facilities, which means a total of 32,842 have resided in the facilities at some point this year. 

North Korea has yet to report a single confirmed case of COVID-19. 

The figures provided by North Korean authorities may include only those who are quarantining at home. North Korean authorities have yet to disclose any information regarding state quarantine facilities where suspected cases of COVID-19 are kept, about the numbers of people in these facilities, and about how many people have died in the facilities.

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