North Korean authorities have recently issued an emergency order calling for strict compliance with social distancing rules at workplaces, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday that the government issued the order on Dec. 10. The order called for “strict compliance” with social distancing “in daily life and in public places,” including during work hours at factories, workplaces and collective farms, and noted that there would be efforts to enforce compliance.

According to the source, the emergency order warned workers at government institutions, enterprises and collective farms against working together in groups.

In accordance with the order, workplaces and collective farms are trying to create environments where people can work alone, but workers on the ground reportedly find the directive “highly unreasonable,” the source said. 

“Workplace staff point out that there’s only one workspace and machinery is bunched together, so it’s impossible to create workspaces by dividing them up,” he said, adding, “At collective farms, too, farmers are saying it’s difficult to work across divided spaces.”

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

At farms in the urban areas of Hoeryong, farmers have been divided into teams and work in shifts in accordance with orders from North Korean authorities to create individual workspaces and social distance. However, with production targets set high for the “80-day battle,” and little time to achieve them, the workers are becoming overwhelmed, the source said. 

In downtown markets in places such as Chongjin and Onsong, social distancing systems have directed merchants to do their business in shifts while occupying every other stall. However, the source said this has led to an outcry from business people.

“Despite [the frustration], the government says it will enforce social distancing and has ordered the Ministry of Social Security and [mobile] inspection teams to strictly monitor  workplaces and farms as well as public places like markets,” the source said.

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