North Korean authorities reportedly marked the birthday of late leader Kim Jong Il with public lectures to bolster quarantine efforts against COVID-19.

Cautioning people against letting their guard down even a bit, the lectures appear to be part of North Korea’s typical propaganda efforts to warn against “unusual phenomenon” on and around major national holidays.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Friday that the authorities carried out lectures at workplaces and inminban (North Korea’s lowest administrative unit) in places throughout the province, including Chongjin and Hoeryong, on Feb. 15. The lectures were entitled, “Let’s Meaningfully Mark the Day of the Shining Star Holiday by Strengthening Emergency Anti-Epidemic Activities,” using the local name for Kim Jong Il’s birthday.

According to explanatory material obtained through the source, North Korea presented three directions for its quarantine activities: “promotion of hygiene, identifying symptoms, and disinfection efforts.”

Regarding the promotion of hygiene, the lectures stressed that the most important issue was awareness of “quarantine regulations.” If locals don’t follow those regulations, it could cause “a catastrophic disaster that cannot be reversed.”

A sample of the documentation released for lectures that were held on Kim Jong Il’s birthday. / Image: Daily NK

Moreover, the materials called on people to take quarantine efforts as “a serious matter on which their fate and that of their children depends,” and to show “responsibility and self-sacrifice without a moment’s carelessness.”

Moreover, the materials called for elevating the awareness of the entire people toward quarantine efforts, adding that people “must strictly follow emergency anti-epidemic regulations, including wearing a mask, taking temperatures and disinfecting your hands.”

The lectures also noted that all quarantine checkpoints in the country must take the lead in ensuring efforts to identify symptoms of the coronavirus take place.

The lectures called on checkpoints to “temporarily quarantine” people with fevers and other “abnormal symptoms” and come up with measures based on “orders from relevant emergency anti-epidemic agencies.” They also said that non-contact thermometers must measure temperatures in ambient air temperature, as explained in the user guide.

The lectures added that stores and restaurants should offer services while ensuring “many people don’t gather together.” This indicates once again that North Korea is conducting social distancing efforts. 

In regards to disinfection efforts, the lectures stressed the importance of keeping streets, villages and workplaces clean and tidy. They called the efforts a “patriotic project that are not just for us, but also for the Motherland.”

Meanwhile, locals have offered lukewarm responses to the lectures, regarding them as a waste of time. In particular, some locals complain that the authorities “should be providing rations when we might starve to death at any time, not holding quarantine lectures.”

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