North Korean authorities recently elevated the Ministry of Public Health’s National Institute of Hygiene Inspection to a “bureau” with a vastly strengthened role. 

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that the North Korean government, under the belief that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue into the future, ordered the elevation of the institute’s status on June 14. The authorities also ordered that the newly minted “National Bureau of Hygiene Inspection” be expanded so it can exercise authority at “several magnitudes greater than in the past.”

While ordering the establishment of the new bureau, North Korean leaders demanded that everything be done to prevent the coronavirus from “infiltrating” the country “through objects from the outside world” as “nobody can predict when the global COVID-19 pandemic will end, and [because] another pandemic could occur in the future.”

The country’s leadership pointed out that the new bureau should first and foremost stop government agencies and officials from “unconsciously committing random acts” as viruses could enter the country and cause irreversible disasters “because of objects [goods or products] from the outside world [the country] doesn’t need right away.”

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

For example, the authorities pointed out the “treasonous behavior” by some factories and enterprises of smuggling machinery across the China-North Korea border by designating the wares “necessary items.”

North Korean authorities have also broadened the scope of the new bureau’s activities, allowing it to thoroughly manage hygiene inspection efforts in the service sector and at foodstuff factories, processing plants, and other factories and enterprises.

According to the source, the government further noted that because it remains unknown when the global COVID-19 pandemic will end, “we must tightly close the border, and hygiene inspection workers in border cities must strengthen their propaganda efforts so that all locals take part in hygiene and quarantine efforts with a sense of ownership.”

The source noted that the leadership stressed that “workers and ordinary people who are lax in hygiene and quarantine efforts have helped the enemy and committed anti-party, treasonous acts that harm socialist quarantine efforts, and that such individuals should be punished at the proper time rather than overlooked.”

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