N. Korean man dies of COVID-19 infection-like symptoms

Local officials concluded that the man, a smuggler of goods in and out of China, died of "pneumonia"

Some North Koreans living in North Pyongan Province suspect that the government is covering up the death of a man who recently died of symptoms similar to those suffering from COVID-19 infections, Daily NK has learned.

The man reportedly died on Feb. 16 after suffering for a week from a fever and other cold-like symptoms.

“The man had been involved in smuggling across the Sino-North Korean border up until early February. He began suffering from what seemed to be a cold and was taking cold medicine but he failed to get better,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Feb. 23.

The man reportedly continued his smuggling activities even after the shutdown of the Sino-North Korean border in late January.

The head officer at a sentry point along the Sino-North Korean border is expected to be punished severely for turning a blind eye to the man’s smuggling activities, sources said.


Local officials in Ryongchon County along with disease control officials began an investigation into the man’s death after holding a meeting on Feb. 17. The officials, however, concluded that the man had not died of a COVID-19 infection.

“There were rumors that the man had died of COVID-19, but local officials said that he had long suffered from bronchial asthma and he had died from pneumonia brought on by the common cold,” the North Pyongan Province source said.

The man’s body was reportedly cremated five hours after his death and his entire family was taken to a local hospital for medical examinations.

Daily NK sources reported that Ryongchon County locals believe that the man could have died from a COVID-19 infection, particularly given that there have been upwards of 100 infection confirmed in Liaoning Province, right across the border from North Korea.

North Korea continues to deny that any COVID-19 infections have occurred in the country.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.