Kim Jong Un visited the headquarters of the State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command on May 12. (Rodong Sinmun)

North Korea recently implemented a so-called “maximum emergency quarantine system” following its announcement of an outbreak of COVID-19, and its State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command (SEAC) is making an all-out effort to fight the spread of the disease.

According to a Daily NK source inside North Korea on May 19, the SEAC recently issued an order to emergency quarantine regiments in each region to “expand the size of rapid mobile quarantine teams and containment teams.”

On May 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the headquarters of the SEAC, where he pointed out loopholes in the quarantine system, which put the authorities into crisis mode. They then issued orders to expand the number of rapid mobile quarantine and containment workers as part of efforts to cope with the surge in fever cases.

Accordingly, the emergency quarantine regiment in each region worked to increase the size of rapid mobile quarantine teams and containment teams that are under its command by 10 to 20 staff members as part of efforts to strengthen the emergency quarantine mobilization system. The rapid mobile quarantine teams and containment teams are made up of members of Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security branches.

According to the source, when an infectious disease occurs or a person gets a fever, the rapid mobile quarantine teams make accurate diagnoses in conjunction with rapid diagnosis consultative teams in local people’s hospitals, record the cases in the fever case registry, and report the situation to the local emergency quarantine regiment.

The rapid mobile quarantine teams also conduct disinfection work in cordoned-off areas and take the temperature of fever patients three times a day.

Containment teams, meanwhile, are tasked with accurately finding out the medical causes of a patient’s fever through medical staff at local people’s hospitals or clinics, organizing PCR tests in conjunction with local emergency quarantine regiments (when a fever patient has come into contact with wild animals or infectious disease patients, or when they have traveled into a locked down area), and cordons off the home and surrounding area of a person who has come down with a fever. 

Essentially, the containment teams prevent anyone from going into an area where a fever case has occurred, along with preventing the movement of fever patients themselves. 

“The newly recruited rapid mobile quarantine teams and containment teams are mobilized to control people with symptoms of a fever and carry out medical surveillance to meet the needs of the maximum emergency quarantine system,” the source said. “In reality, however, they are like crackdown squads controlling residents under the guise of emergency quarantine measures.”

The translator requested anonymity. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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Kim Chae Hwan is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He can be contacted at