Taedong pigs african swine fever
Pigs at North Korea's Daedong Pig Farm. / Image: DPRK Today's Pinterest Feed

Pigs known to be infected with African Swine Fever (ASF) are still being butchered and sold at local markets, Daily NK sources have reported. 

“When pigs are infected with ASF they should be slaughtered and buried, but that’s just not happening in North Korea,” a Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK on Tuesday. “That would mean losing money, so people are slaughtering the infected pigs and selling them as quickly as possible at local markets.” 

The source added that pork sellers are killing the pigs as soon as the animals are known to be infected with ASF, despite bigger pigs fetching higher prices. 

Individual private farmers tend to raise at least one pig and five or more chickens or ducks, with such small-scale operations providing an estimated 80-90% of the animal meat sold at local markets. 

According to a report in the March 2017 edition of the Korea Development Institute’s Review of the North Korean Economy (in Korean), regulations in North Korea concerning diseased animals call for their quarantine, as well as restrictions on movement and culling. The reality is, however, that the North Korean authorities are not following these guidelines.

Daily NK reported in July that the North Korean authorities were failing to cull ASF-infected swine, and did little more than implement superficial responses to the outbreak of the disease.

Daily NK sources have reported that ASF has not yet spread to Pyongyang, the country’s capital.

It is also unclear whether the “diseased” pigs referred to by Daily NK sources always refer to ASF-infected pigs. North Korea has still not sounded the alarm toward ASF domestically, so it is possible that some Daily NK sources may be confusing ASF with other diseases. 

North Korea announced the outbreak of the disease at a farm in Jagang Province in May, but this news has not been reported through official channels to the general population. Rodong Sinmun and other regime mouthpieces have simply focused on reporting ASF outbreaks in other parts of the world along with general information about the severity of the disease. 

A North Korean livestock health official told Daily NK recently, however, that the entire pig population in North Korea was infected by the virus by late May, suggesting that the failure by authorities to take strong measures to combat the disease and educate the public has led to further outbreaks. 

The South Korean government is currently trying to determine the possible entry route for ASF into South Korea’s farms. The pattern of the spread among swine populations in the South suggests that the disease was transmitted along waterways separating the two Koreas through animals such as wild pigs or insects. 

On September 18, South Korea informed North Korea that a case of ASF had been discovered in Paju near the inter-Korean border and proposed joint efforts to combat the disease. North Korea has yet to respond to South Korea’s proposal. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@gmail.com.

Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.