Officials in North Hamgyong Province’s Kilju County have recently set up a quarantine facility to house a large number of people who are suffering from symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19, Daily NK has learned. 

“There have been more than 40 people who are suspected of having come down with the infectious disease in Kilju County and Kilju-eup [village] along with the Ilsin Coal Mining Village,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on May 12.

“The county has set aside a building to be used as a quarantine facility for the sick people,” he added. 

North Hamgyong Province authorities have ordinarily ordered people exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to be transported to the province’s capital, Chongjin, for treatment. 

This time, however, Kilju County authorities were ordered to deal with the patients locally because transport to the provincial capital was unavailable for unspecified reasons. 

Kilju County officials have reportedly turned a newly-built structure at the Kilju Preservatives Factory into an isolation facility for the sick people. 

The central and provincial governments have reportedly sent disease control officials and doctors to the quarantine facility and Kilju County police officials are ensuring ordinary citizens keep away from it. 

“Local police are guarding the road that leads to the isolation facility,” the source said. 

Most of those who have come down sick are factory workers and their families and this has led to rumors that people in the area have come down with an “unknown disease.” 

“The authorities called a meeting with local residents, workers at the preservatives factory and inminban leaders to quiet these rumors about an unknown disease, and forbade the people from talking about the sick people,” the source told Daily NK.

North Korea continues to claim that it has no COVID-19 infections yet reports from Daily NK and other sources suggest outbreaks have occurred. 

On May 6, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) stated during a closed-door meeting with members of South Korea’s National Assembly intelligence committee that the intelligence agency “cannot exclude” the possibility that North Korea has COVID-19 cases, citing the extensive trade over the Sino-North Korean border before North Korea shut down its border in late January. 

On May 10, Rodong Sinmun ran an article that declared that the country’s communist party “considers the health and lives of the people the nation’s top priority” and is the reason the leadership has taken “preemptive” and “decisive” measures to prevent the spread of the disease in the country.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to