N. Korea provides face masks to leaders in the “top 1%”

There are questions, however, how effective cloth-based face masks are in preventing COVID-19 infections

North Korea is providing domestically-manufactured face masks made out of cloth to high-level government officials, Daily NK sources have reported.

“The central command center for emergency disease control supplied several boxes of face masks for use by disease control officials throughout the country,” a South Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK on Feb. 21. “Face masks were also provided to ministers within the Central Committee.”

Drivers of high-level Central Committee officials were reportedly called to the headquarters of the Central Committee’s accounting department to receive boxes that contained around 300 face masks each.

Central Committee ministers are considered the “top 1%” of North Korea’s leadership.

These high-level officials were reportedly given face masks because they have been ordered to wear them during on-the-spot visits to areas they manage. North Korea has already provided masks to disease control and public health officials.

“The Central Committee officials were ordered to wear face masks no matter what when they do their rounds,” a source told Daily NK.

Early in February Premier Kim Jae Ryong was seen without a face mask (on Feb. 5), but he has been seen wearing one ever since (on Feb. 12 and Feb. 17). / Image: Rodong Sinmun

North Korean Premier Kim Jae Ryong, for example, did not wear a face mask during a visit to the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory on Feb. 5, but he began wearing masks during visits to emergency disease control command centers throughout the country from Feb. 12. He also wore a mask during a visit to the Pukchang Thermal Power Complex on Feb. 17.

“Clothing factories throughout the country, including in Pyongyang, along with factories operated by the Unha General Trading Corporation conducted ‘campaigns’ [concerted efforts to produce products] to manufacture face masks for the Central Committee from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7,” the source said.

Rodong Sinmun reported on Feb. 5 that factories in Pyongyang were making “full-fledged efforts” to manufacture the masks and that the Pyongyang Clothing Factory, the Mangyong Textile Factory, and the Hyungjaesan Clothing Factory had devoted all their resources to producing masks.

The newspaper also reported that the factories manufactured tens of thousands of masks every day.

Masks being manufactured at North Korea’s Wuisong Textile Factory. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

The cloth masks that were given to the Central Committee members will likely do little to protect against a COVID-19 infection, however.

During a press conference on Feb. 4, the head of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control stated that masks made out of cloth or cotton become wet when people wearing them cough, which limits their effectiveness in preventing inhalation of virus particles.

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