SEATTLE, Washington — In an attempt to preserve the “self-sustaining” image of North Korea, its government has done little in response to the COVID-19 situation since the start of the pandemic. This has increased death rates among the longtime poverty- and famine-stricken people of the land, making their starved lifestyles even more of a terror. The only move the government of the DPRK made initially was to intensify border security.
Professor of macroeconomics Jesus Crespo Cuaresma confirmed that in 2018, prior to the COVID-19 wave, roughly 60% of the North Korean population lived in severe poverty. Crespo estimates that this would be around 15 million individuals. The annual income of the average North Korean is $790. This is the lowest recorded income on the planet. It would equate to about $5.50 per day.
Even before the pandemic, regular employment in North Korea did not provide nearly enough to feed people and their households. However, during the pandemic, unemployment reached 4.7% in 2020, leaving a portion of the country relying on the meager distributed food rations.
Longtime COVID-19 Denial
North Korea has claimed that there are zero cases of coronavirus within its borders. In December 2021, North Korean media reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) that hospitals had tested 48,449 total people with no findings of the coronavirus.
However, within the last week of September and the first week of October 2021, WHO reported that 94 North Korean people and 573 North Korean health care workers had influenza-like symptoms. Also, during North Korea’s Workers’ Party central committee in June 2021, leader Kim Jong-un described the current economic and food situation as “tense.”
In August 2021, China’s exports and humanitarian aid shipments to North Korea rose for the third month in a row, but are still not as frequent as they were pre-pandemic, as COVID-19 is causing hiccups in production for most countries.
Additionally, Japan and European Union members recently held a loaded U.N. panel in November 2021 for the sole purpose of outing North Korean leaders and oppressors for serious domestic human rights violations. The aforementioned members adopted a written resolution, urging North Korea to lift its strict and lingering border closures, which were to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Not only have closed borders “led to food insecurity, severe hunger, malnutrition, widespread health problems and other hardship for the population,” but they will keep things that way long term by inhibiting potential foreign aid that could alleviate these issues.
How Things are Slowly Turning Around
Finally, in October 2021, after constant on-ground observations and checks for evidence of the virus by the World Health Organization (WHO), North Korea finally accepted COVID-19 aid. As MSN reported, the DPRK opened the sea route from China’s Dalian to Nampo. This was a subtle hint that they are finally open to helpful foreign affairs, making this a perfect opportunity for the U.S. government and other wealthier nations to intervene without the suspected deadly consequences. WHO will be sending vaccines through Dalian.
WHO has been sending COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies after North Korea finally accepted COVID-19 aid from them. These supplies include various medicines, emergency health kits and medical tools that would support essential and borderline health services on top of just COVID-19 aid at primary North Korean health care facilities.
Now that North Korea has finally accepted COVID-19 aid, the country has imposed more reasonable COVID-19 initiatives. For instance, North Korean civilians and soldiers are now wearing masks. North Korea has also become more open to receiving vaccine shipments and opening some parts of its borders.
– Fidelia Gavrilenko