African swine fever (ASF) has now spread throughout South Pyongan Province and while the North Korean authorities are trying to prevent its further spread, their efforts have been minimal at best, North Korean sources recently told Daily NK.
“ASF has affected all the farms and livestock in South Pyongan Province,” a South Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK. “Anju, Sukchon, Mundok, Pyongsong, Sunchon, Dokchon and Kaechon have been particularly hard hit.”
The source added that around 1,500 pigs in Kaechon have died from the disease.
“A pig in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, died in March after suffering from flu-like symptoms, and in April another pig died in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province. ASF outbreaks have been confirmed in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, and Manpo, Jagang Province. The authorities in those areas have banned the sale of pork. In May, ASF outbreaks were reported in Pyongyang, Pyongsong, Sunchon and Kaechon,” he said.
The authorities have reacted to these outbreaks by establishing an emergency quarantine committee with stated objectives to: 1) prevent the movement of pigs; 2) prevent people from entering infected areas; and 3) acquire materials to quarantine infected areas. They have not, however, destroyed infected pigs and have only taken superficial efforts to prevent people from entering infected areas. Quarantine officials still lack adequate supplies of critical items such as disinfectant to properly conduct their work, the source reported.
“The government is clamping down on the sale of pork, but residents still butcher pigs in their houses to sell at local markets or consume themselves,” said the source. The authorities only permit the sale of pork that has been certified at “veterinary checkpoints”; however, ordinary North Koreans are selling and eating infected or potentially-infected pork.
The authorities are doing very little to effectively mitigate the situation, the source added.
“Even if the government was to prevent pork from being sold in the markets, nobody thinks there’s any harm in eating infected pork. That’s why they continue to eat it in secret,” a separate source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK. “Merchants can’t sell pork out in the open, so they just sell it from their homes.”
The source also added, however, that North Koreans traditionally do not eat a lot of pork and sales have fallen due to the spread of ASF. Pork sellers do not appear to be trying to sell more pork than usual.
“I haven’t seen anyone spraying [disinfectant] anywhere despite the spread of ASF,” she said. “There’s been no mention of ASF at inminban meetings. The authorities have clamped down on the sale of pork, so many people just think there’s some disease going around.”
The authorities have shown little interest in responding to South Korea’s proposals for a joint effort to prevent the spread of the disease. A South Korean Ministry of Unification spokesperson told reporters on July 4: “We are attempting to confirm whether [North Korea] has any particular opinion toward the proposals we made through the Inter-Korean Joint Liaison Office” and that “[The North Koreans] have yet to respond.”
The South Korean government proposed a joint North/South Korean effort to prevent the spread of ASF through the Inter-Korean Joint Liaison Office on May 31, one day after North Korea reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that there was an outbreak of ASF at a collective farm in Usi County, Jagang Province.
Daily NK reported in April citing several Pyongyang-based sources that there were ASF outbreaks just outside Pyongyang in Hyungjaesan District and Sungho District. Several other Daily NK sources in North Korea later reported that the authorities were cracking down on the sale of pork in several areas of the country, including North and South Pyongan and South Hamgyong provinces.