A view of Mirae Scientists Street in Pyongyang. (Ryugyong)

North Koreans quarantined at home in some parts of Pyongyang have recently complained of water shortages, leading the authorities to mobilize special military units to respond to the problem, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK military source in Pyongyang on Monday, the city’s emergency anti-epidemic command received a report that quarantined residents in high-rise homes in the city’s Mirae Scientists Street are suffering great hardships because of the lack of tap water.

“After discussions with the Ministry of Defense, the command launched efforts at midnight of May 23 to mobilize special detachments of army doctors and medics who have been delivering medicine in Pyongyang for a ‘battle’ to deliver water,” he said.

In short, following North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s order for the deployment of large numbers of soldiers and army doctors to ensure the 24-hour delivery of medicine to Pyongyang, military personnel are distributing medicine during the day while supplying water to quarantined families at night.

According to the source, Pyongyang’s emergency anti-epidemic headquarters and Ministry of Defense held a meeting on May 23. They concluded that while regional and workplace lockdowns currently in place have caused many difficulties, the most urgent problem has been the lack of running water. They decided to take all available and necessary measures to resolve the situation, while at the same time continue efforts to ensure people know the necessity of their sacrifices. 

The source said that the authorities decided to supply water to Mirae Scientists Street as people there had filed a complaint first. Officials also decided that if other areas in the city file complaints about water shortages, military units would be mobilized to supply water while local party committees would help keep people as calm as possible.

“The water supply system for apartments on Mirae Scientists Street is not old because the homes are relatively new. Nowadays, however, muddy water is coming out of the taps, and upper floors aren’t getting water because of low water pressure,” said the source. “District party propaganda departments are placing loudspeaker vehicles below the apartments and appealing for residents to endure just a bit more and to continue to follow the party’s quarantine policies, even if there’s not enough water.”

The source further explained that people in the area are receiving small water distributions once a week rather than once every three days like in the past because the authorities are prioritizing electricity for agricultural areas. “[The government] tells people to stay at home in quarantine, but then fails to supply running water. So people can’t bathe, and they gather up dishwater to use in their bathrooms,” he explained. 

Since its first official announcement of a COVID-19 outbreak on May 12, North Korean authorities have implemented nationwide lockdowns and quarantined fever cases with little concern about the country’s decrepit water supply system. Moreover, following the start of the farming season, the authorities are prioritizing the country’s limited supplies of electricity for agricultural areas. This situation appears to have led to worsening hardships for families in high-rise apartments in Pyongyang. 

“If you lock people at home, the government should at least ensure that drinking water and bathroom water are supplied,” the source said. “But people in high-rise apartments say that because they have no water, they are afraid to eat or go to the bathroom.”

Pyongyang authorities and the Ministry of Defense are rushing to alleviate this situation.

“The Ministry of Defense is demanding soldiers wage a struggle of devotion on the basis of high loyalty to the party and regard for the people,” said the source. “Households place 10 liter plastic containers with their apartment numbers on them in front of their doors and special detachments of soldiers go around and collect the containers. The soldiers fill the containers with water and put them back in front of the doors between midnight and 3 AM.”

However, many people are saying the water the soldiers are providing is woefully insufficient for their needs.

“People are complaining that three or four people must survive on 10 liters a day, which isn’t even enough to use in their bathrooms, so distributing running water once every three days would be better,” the source said. 

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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