South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers that Kim Jong-un is taking extreme measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 and its economic consequences in his secretive state, including shutting the North’s capital and banning fishing.
The intelligence service claimed that Kim has ordered the execution of at least two people, banned fishing at sea and shut down the nation’s capital, Pyongyang.
Following the briefing, South Korean politician, Ha Tae-keung, told the media that Kim was displaying “excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” in a bout of Covid “paranoia.”
Ha and another South Korean politician, Kim Byung-kee, claimed that the Supreme Leader of North Korea banned fishing and salt production because of fears that seawater might have been contaminated with the virus.
This marine-related anti-virus paranoia reportedly also means 110,000 tons of rice from China has been stranded in the northeastern Chinese port of Dalian.
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The South Koreans added that the intelligence service told them of a number of regional lockdowns in the North, including the capital Pyongyang and other areas where officials found unauthorized foreign goods and currencies.
One of the two people allegedly executed, a high-profile currency trader, was reportedly responsible for a falling exchange rate. The other, an important public official, was executed in August after violating government regulations which restrict goods being brought in from abroad, the South Korean spies claimed.
However, reports of North Korean executions should be taken with caution. The media and government in Seoul have previously reported purges and the execution of individuals only for the “executed” officials to turn up alive later.
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Despite these reported moves, Pyongyang is yet to publicly confirm any Covid-19 cases.
Earlier evidence suggested that Kim was taking the pandemic very seriously, with strict border closures and restrictions on movement since January.
In October, North Korean TV warned citizens to stay indoors over fears that a “yellow dust” cloud, which was blowing over from China, included “toxic material, virus, and pathogenic microorganism.” The streets of the capital were reportedly empty following the warning.
In July, Kaesong, the historic capital of a united Korea, was locked down due a suspected Covid-19 case after the person illegally crossed the border. The lockdown was lifted after three weeks.
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