FILE PHOTO: In this photo taken in Namyang, North Hamgyong Province, people can be seen walking and sitting on a local street. (Daily NK)

There are dramatic differences in how medicine is being supplied in Pyongyang and the rest of the country, a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Wednesday. 

While the government is carrying out large-scale efforts in Pyongyang to supply medications, no drugs are being provided to hospitals or pharmacies in other areas of the country, the source said. 

North Korean authorities have widely reported through TV, newspapers and other media that the government has held discussions on stabilizing the drug supply, but in localities throughout the country – including North Hamgyong Province — no drugs are being distributed, he claimed. 

The source said that provincial residents who hear daily propaganda about the government mobilizing soldiers to distribute drugs in Pyongyang are complaining that they can “really feel the difference between Pyongyang and the provinces.” Provincial residents cannot help but express discontent at how Pyongyang takes priority even in matters of life or death, he added. 

The source told Daily NK that one resident of Chongjin complained of pain after several days of high fever, a sore throat, coughing and other symptoms, but was put into 15 days of quarantine without any medication since no drugs could be found at hospital dispensaries or marketplaces.

At the time, quarantine authorities simply put the person’s home under lockdown, taking no measures to treat him.

“In our country, Pyongyang comes first in everything. So whatever it is, the capital gets supplied first, and provinces get whatever is left over,” the source said. “Recently, medications were imported from China, but provincial residents haven’t gotten access to them.” 

The source further complained that the government was telling provincial residents to pick willow leaves or take hwangbaeksan (a traditional medicine) because no drugs were left over following distributions in Pyongyang. 

“It seems the government hasn’t cared from the start whether people in the provinces live or die,” he added. 

The source further told Daily NK that government propaganda claiming that the COVID-19 situation has stabilized is causing discontent among many people in the provinces because they are suffering without proper access to medications. 

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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