North Koreans avoiding pork as ASF rumors spread

Rason Market in North Hamgyong Province
Rason Market in North Hamgyong Province. Image: Daily NK

The North Korean authorities have yet to officially announce the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country, but many North Koreans are avoiding pork due to rumors.

“The authorities have not held any lectures to officially inform the people about ASF,” said a Pyongyang-based source on June 10. “But rumors are rampant about an outbreak, and people are now avoiding pork.”

The North Korean authorities generally hold lectures to inform the population when contagious disease outbreaks occur, but lectures to date have failed to mention an ASF outbreak, said the source.

Rumors of an outbreak are rampant, however, as locals have noticed the crackdowns on pork sales by the authorities and have made their own conclusions.

“The authorities have banned the sale of pork in the markets,” said a source in South Pyongan Province. “People are still trying to sell it in secret, but there aren’t many people buying because everyone is warning against eating it.”

“The authorities are telling meat sellers not to sell pork,” another source in North Pyongan Province confirmed. “People know that an ASF outbreak has occurred so they are avoiding pork.”

Rumors in Hyesan suggest that eating pork can lead to death. However, ASF is not transmissible to human beings and poses no direct risk to human health. Nevertheless, such inaccurate rumors have stoked fears among locals in Hyesan, according to sources in that region.

The Rodong Sinmun and other state media outlets are providing some degree of indirect information to North Koreans, including the dangers that ASF poses and how to prevent its spread. But many North Koreans still know very little about the disease, including what causes it and how to deal with it.

After North Korea reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on May 30 that the country faced an outbreak of ASF, the South Korean government informed the regime through the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong of its willingness to help tackle the disease. North Korea has yet to respond to South Korea’s offer.

The North Korean authorities informed international health agencies that one case of ASF had occurred in Usi County, but experts say that many other areas of the country have likely been affected by outbreaks given the country’s lack of infrastructure to deal with epidemics.

On June 9, Kim Yeon Chul, South Korea’s unification minister, told viewers of KBS 1TV Sunday Diagnosis Live that “there are many reports of the spread of ASF in North Korea,” but that “it’s difficult to confirm exactly what’s happening, so we have to prepare for the worst.”

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