Several senior officials were recently replaced by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This is after the country’s efforts to defend itself against the coronavirus pandemic encountered a “grave incident”. State media reported this on Wednesday Jun 30th.
In January last year, Pyongyang closed its borders to protect itself against the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic first emerged in neighbouring China and has spread all over the world.
To-date, North Korea has not publicly confirmed any cases of the disease in the country. The Hermit Kingdom refuses to confirm such information in state media. Also, it will not confirm test statistics it disclosed to the World Health Organization.
However, the latest development is a clear indication there have been infections in the isolated country, according to analysts. North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs have led the country to be placed under many international sanctions.
Officials caused a “crucial” incident when they neglected their duties says Kim. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim told a politburo meeting of the incident. It created “a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences”.
However, Kim did not reveal further details of the incident.
The officials’ “lack of ability and irresponsibility” delayed the implementation of important tasks according to Kim. The officials are accused by Kim of “self-protectionism and passiveness”.
Major struggle if North Korea has a COVID-19 outbreak
North Korea’s impoverished country would be left struggling to cope with a major COVID-19 outbreak. Its health system is run down, and lacks medical supplies.
Announcement of new politburo members
On Tuesday, new members of the presidium of the politburo, the highest decision-making body of the ruling Workers’ Party and the politburo were named at the meeting. Government officials were transferred and appointed, according to official reports from KCNA.
North Korean defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP that the KCNA news basically means North Korea has confirmed cases.
Ahn said “The fact that the politburo discussed this, and that the KCNA reported about it, signals Pyongyang is probably in need of international aid.”
“Otherwise they would not have done this as it inevitably involves acknowledging the regime’s own failure in its anti-epidemic efforts.”
Anti-coronavirus efforts were highlighted by North Korean state media ever since the pandemic began. State officials have instructed citizens to remain vigilant.
Kim thanks his people
At a military parade in October, Leader Kim in a tearful address, thanked his people for not having had any cases. However, analysts doubt the assertion.
A country in self-isolation
Pyongyang is paying a high price for its coronavirus defence.
The Hermit Kingdom is now more isolated than ever, due to a self-imposed and strictly enforced blockade. All international aid workers have left the country. North Korea’s economic lifeline, i.e., trading with Beijing, slowed to a trickle.
The Needs and Priorities document is a key report that summarises the humanitarian situation in the country. This report is prepared by several UN relief groups, and forms the basis for UN appeals. The UN groups sadly confirmed to news media house AFP that the report will not be published this year.
Pyongyang admitted this month that it was tackling a food crisis. With a declining agricultural sector that is struggling to feed itself, Pyongyang is sounding the alarm.
“Worst-ever situation” approaching
Even Leader Kim has warned the citizens to prepare for the “worst-ever situation”.
Shoring up loyalty to the authorities has been sought by Pyongyang. Last week, state television featured a resident of the capital expressing concern. According to the resident, the concern stems from people being heartbroken over the “emaciated” condition of Leader Kim. The North Korean leader has lost significant weight in recent weeks, said the resident.
However, political analysts say Kim’s appearance is a way for Pyongyang to glorify him as a devoted and hardworking leader. This is as the kingdom struggles to deal with a looming food crisis and a possible COVID-19 outbreak.
30th June 2021 23:00
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