How North Korea Justifies the Theory That South Korean Balloons Brought Covid to the Country

Snow? Migratory birds? According to the North Korean government, these are the main reasons for the nationwide Covid outbreak. Now, balloons traveling from South Korea to North Korea join the list of causes sent by activists who oppose Kim Jong-un’s government.

Little is known about the reality of living within North Korea’s borders, just as little is known about world events within the country itself. Since Kim Jong-un’s grandfather took over as leader of North Korea, a dictatorship now over 70 years old has been forced to live under what is considered one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The dictatorship that the Kim family imposed on the country was the beginning of a history of repression and fear that isolated North Korea from the world. The exact conditions North Koreans currently live in are unknown, but some testimonies and investigations paint a picture of hunger and misery among its citizens.

As the Covid-19 pandemic began, many international observers shared their concerns that an already negative situation would worsen, namely the health care of the North Korean people, as well as food and other supplies after the country’s lockdown. boundaries. According to the testimony of Kim Hwang-sun, a North Korean citizen who fled the country for Seoul, South Korea, BBC, North Korea’s hospitals and pharmacies have run out of drugs for years, with doctors prescribing a prescription for the patient to find. “If you need an anesthetic for an operation, you have to go to the market to get it and bring it back to the hospital,” he says.

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Covid-19 has made this situation even worse, although Kim Jong-un, in the first months of the pandemic, ensured that the virus did not enter his country’s borders, which was received with skepticism by many experts. The first reports of the flu outbreak in the country became public in May this year, with the government reporting numbers of infected and dead, which the World Health Organization rejected, believing they were too high.

In a call with his family in North Korea at the end of May, Kim Hwang-sun says he got the impression that the situation in the country was very complicated. “They told me many people had the flu,” he began. “I had a feeling that it was very bad. Everyone said that whoever they met was asking for medicine. Everyone was looking for something to reduce the fever, but no one could find anything,” he explained.

According to the BBC, Kim Hwang-sun did not ask how many people died because he feared that the call would be recorded and that the issue could be seen as criticism of the government, which could lead to the death of his family.

The North Korean leader has already acknowledged shortages of drugs and has ordered the military to distribute their stockpiles, but he has refused aid when neighboring South Korea was among the first to offer vaccines against the virus. As with other types of medicinal products. Now, Kim Jong-un has blamed this very country for the outbreak of Covid recorded in his country.

According to recent official reports, the virus first came into contact with North Korean civilians after an 18-year-old soldier and a 5-year-old child discovered “alien objects” on a mountain near the South Korean border. The items could be balloons sent by South Korean activists, who have been doing so for years with the aim of getting anti-Kim Jong-un messages and humanitarian aid across the border.

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North Korean media advises citizens to be aware of “wind and other weather phenomena and foreign objects arriving on balloons arriving in the demarcation line and areas adjacent to the borders”. Anyone who recognizes an object similar to that described or suspicious should report it immediately so that it can be quickly removed by emergency crews.

South Korea

While the statement did not directly mention South Korea, the country’s government has already publicly rejected an explanation given by its northern neighbor for how Covid could have entered its territory, which is understood to have traveled via launched balloons. South Koreans. According to Seoul, there is “no possibility” that Covid could have crossed the border this way.

A spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry even said there was a consensus between South Korean health officials and experts from the World Health Organization that infection through contact with the virus on the surface of objects was unlikely.

North Korea’s statements did not match those of its southern neighbor in other respects. The practice of sending balloons across the border was largely stopped after the previous South Korean government criminalized the practice. As far as is known, no such measures were taken until early April, when Kim Jong-un claims to have identified the first cases. An activist on trial for sending balloons will send propaganda leaflets against the North Korean leader in late April, not early, and then Covid-19 in June. Will send articles to fight 19 as masks. and pain relievers.

25 million North Koreans are now particularly vulnerable due to a lack of vaccination program and poor healthcare system, the BBC highlights. More recently, Kim Jong-un reportedly agreed to accept an offer of Chinese-made vaccines, according to media reports in the North Korean city of Pyongyang. If the vaccination process has begun, and the number of cases spreading abroad continues to be questioned, the exact number of citizens who will be vaccinated is still unknown.

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A trip dedicated to trade between the two countries began in early 2020, months after the country lifted a strict blockade on its border with China. One of these trips was because, at the time, China was affected by the eruption of Omicron. However, it would be difficult from a diplomatic point of view to admit that this could have been the origin of the virus in the country, according to testimony given to Reuters by Lim Yul-chul, an expert on North Korean affairs. That precludes some advantages for North Korea, namely from a business perspective. “If they conclude that the virus came from China, they will have to strengthen quarantine measures in the border area as an additional setback for North Korea-China trade,” he explained.

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