Attempting to access information about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus crisis in North Korea is much like attempting to research other issues in the hermit country: reliable facts are in short supply, and instead propaganda, guesswork and rumors circulate.
Only one thing is certain — the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began to react to the invisible threat at the end of January, long before Europe did so.
The state newspaper Rodong Sinmum described the fight against the virus as a matter of “national survival.”
However, on March 13 the North Korean government told the World Health Organization (WHO) that the country did not have a single case of the virus’ resulting disease COVID-19 in the country.
At the same time, neighboring China reported over 80,000 people were infected, and in South Korea, the other half of the divided Korean peninsula, there were just under 8,000.
North Korea’s public life has largely been brought to a standstill. There is an entry and exit ban, air and rail traffic are suspended, schools and universities are closed.
All foreigners in the country were put under a 30-day quarantine, from which even diplomats were not exempt — and are only allowed to move to a very limited extent. Germany, for instance, subsequently withdrew its embassy staff at the end of February, and the omnipresent military force of the self-declared nuclear power is no exception to the measures.