Amid efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, North Korean authorities in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, recently placed a family into an isolation facility for secretly raising a cat, Daily NK has learned.

The family of four live in Hyesan’s Songhu District and were placed into the quarantine facility on May 24, according to a source in Yanggang Province yesterday. “The family was given a punishment of 20 days in isolation for illegally raising the cat following an order not to do so in the [Sino-North Korean] border region,” he added.

North Korean authorities previously handed down an order in Hyesan, Sinuiju, and other places on the border directing people to “catch and eliminate pigeons and cats” as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The belief apparently seems to be that animals can spread COVID-19.

North Koreans have been seen shooting at birds flying over the border from China, and both cats with owners and feral cats have been the target of elimination campaigns.

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A view of Hyesan, in North Korea’s Yanggang Province. / Image: Daily NK

The family in Hyesan, for their part, told the authorities that their cat had died when officials went around to households to ensure no one was raising the animals.

On May 22, however, their cat was seen near a chain-link fence on the border.

Border patrol guards tried to capture the cat, but failed. The cat was seen making its way toward a residential district. The incident was reported up to the provincial quarantine command, and after two days of investigation the owners of the cat were found.

“The cat was taken away and the family was sentenced to 20 days in isolation,” the source said. “They were taken to a facility [and were not allowed to stay] in their own house.”

The source said that many people have questioned why the authorities made such an effort to catch the cat, expressing disbelief that the cat would have been able to cross the river into China and back.

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at