A panorama of Hyesan taken in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hyesan authorities recently loosened restrictions on movement in the city, ten days after the administrative center of Yanggang Province was put under lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19.

“The intensity of the lockdown in Hyesan was recently loosened a bit,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK yesterday. “From May 24, people have been able to leave their homes and walk around their neighborhoods. They have even been allowed to go purchase everyday items at local markets.”

According to the source, Hyesan residents were completely banned from leaving their homes from May 14 to May 23 in accordance with a national ban on movement aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

During this lockdown period, Hyesan residents suspected of having caught the disease were unable to obtain medicine despite suffering from high fevers, and there were many households that complained of hardship due to the lack of food, the source said.

Despite this dire situation, the city’s authorities simply told local residents to toughen up, saying: “On the national level, there’s been a significant decrease in fever patients, so let’s tough it out just a bit more. You all know that the Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] has handed out some of his own medicine to the people.”

However, the situation faced by people in the city during the lockdown appears to have been quite severe. A total of 14 families in the city’s Masan 2-dong neighborhood along with 21 families in the Masan 3-dong neighborhood were discovered collapsed in their homes due to the lack of food. Another 12 families in the Chung-dong neighborhood and seven families in the Hyehwa-dong neighborhood of the city were found collapsed in their homes as well.

Following the collapse of entire families throughout the city due to the lack of food, Hyesan authorities finally loosened the city’s ban on movement from the morning of May 24, allowing them to leave their homes and buy food and other necessities nearby their houses.

Despite the loosening of the ban on movement, there are still people in the city who are complaining about hardship.

In the city’s Hyesong-dong neighborhood, one woman went to the local district office and told officials there that, “My ten-year-old son and husband have collapsed due to hunger,” adding that they had no money, rice or anything else to eat. While urging the officials to help, she remarked: “I’m more afraid of my son and husband dying of starvation due to the lack of food than the infectious disease [COVID-19].”

According to the source, North Korean authorities have claimed that the entire country has been placed on lockdown to improve the health of the people but, in reality, they have no measures in place to treat suspected cases of the coronavirus.

“I’m questioning whether locking people up and starving them to death is necessary to stop the disease,” he said.

“Many people are expressing discontent about the government’s lockdown measures,” the source continued, adding, “The government’s empty propaganda has caused discontent to rise higher than ever before.”

The translator requested anonymity. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

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