North Korean military entities have received fines or shutdowns for breaking quarantine rules, according to multiple sources.

The punishments come after North Korea launched sweeping emergency inspections as a quarantine measure to prevent COVID-19 from spreading this winter.

A Daily NK source in the North Korean military in Pyongyang said Monday that the Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters carried out a weeklong quarantine inspection of an army headquarters in Sokbong-dong, Sosong District from Nov. 2. Units were punished if inspectors found they violated emergency quarantine rules.

According to the source, the Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters carried out the inspection without warning. With the sudden inspection, the authorities underscored that they were reviewing the work attitudes of military organs, groups and commanders amid protracted emergency quarantine efforts.

Accordingly, the Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters conducted an emergency inspection of how well the army headquarters and its subordinate entities were complying with quarantine laws against COVID-19. Quarantine violators were harshly punished.

In fact, a Ministry of Defense noodle shop was was shut down for three months for failing to regularly test its staff, while two commuter buses for the General Political Bureau, General Staff Department and Ministry of Defense operating in eastern Pyongyang were put out of commission for two months for failing to conduct regular fumigations according to regulations.

The source said the Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters said during the inspection that “emergency anti-epidemic activities were directly linked to the safety of the fatherland and people,” warning that complacent, lax compliance with emergency quarantine rules are “intolerable violations of the legal order.”

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Kim Jong Un at the leadership podium during the Party Foundation Day military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

North Korea has focused on unit-level fumigations and quarantine efforts in accordance with the Emergency Quarantine Act, enacted as Ordinance 369 by the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly on Aug. 22 of last year.

Another military source in North Hamgyong Province said the provincial branch of the Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters carried out a week-long quarantine inspection of military unit headquarters in early November. Organs, enterprises and groups found to have violated quarantine rules were fined or closed down.

In fact, the restaurant of the visitors’ quarters of the Ninth Corps’ headquarters in North Hamgyong Province was fined KPW 1 million for releasing unpurified waste water. Four logistics-related facilities were shut down for four months for lax fumigation and sanitation efforts, including a food warehouse belonging to the corps’ accounting section and a noodle factory.

North Korea continues to claim to be completely COVID-19 free, and the country has long dealt severely with violations of the Emergency Quarantine Act by employing martial law.

The country has kept the border closed since January of last year, a drastic quarantine measure. 

Amid these conditions, the latest inspections aim to get an early handle on the possible spread of COVID-19 and underscore quarantine efforts in winter, when indoor activity increases. They also seek to put the military on alert so that it tightens quarantine efforts ahead of winter training, which begins from Dec. 1.

One of the sources said that commanders of entities that violate emergency quarantine rules are demoted one or two ranks, while commanders or political officials of entities that are punished are rebuked or discharged for their irresponsibility or “anti-party attitudes.” These punishments were at the heart of an order issued by the Central Committee, he added.

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