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North Korea: Kim Jong-un orders lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, claiming 'victory' over pandemic
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this week claimed “victory” over the COVID-19 pandemic in the country following its first formal acknowledgement back in May. Kim also ordered the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
North Korean state news outlet KCNA reported Thursday that Kim was presiding over a meeting with healthcare workers and scientists, claiming “victory…in the war against the malignant pandemic disease.” Kim also ordered the restrictions his regime has imposed since the beginning of the outbreak in May to be lifted.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, also spoke at the meeting in Pyongyang. Ms. Kim blamed South Korea for the outbreak of COVID-19 in the isolated nation with the use of anti-North Korea leaflets being sent across the border by activists and defectors.
“We must counter it toughly,” said Ms. Kim. “We have already considered various counteraction plans, but our countermeasure must be a deadly retaliatory one.”
North Korea has had no new reported cases of COVID-19 since July 29.
According to Leif Eric Easley of the Ewha Women’s University in South Korea, the victory lap being taken by Pyongyang is a sign that Kim is looking to focus on other priorities, such as a nuclear test, the first such test since 2017.
Easley explained that Ms. Kim’s rhetoric on South Korea was a concern as the sister of the North Korean leader will not only try to blame South Korea for the outbreak, but Ms. Kim will also use such rhetoric to justify Pyongyang’s next military provocation.
Most analysts suspected that the outbreak in North Korea began when it briefly opened its borders with China back in January. More cases emerged during the military parade and other large-scale events back in April.
The unification ministry of South Korea, which oversees relations with North Korea, responded to the rhetoric by Pyongyang over the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We express strong regret over North Korea repeatedly making groundless claims over the route of COVID and making very disrespectful and threatening remarks,” the ministry said in a statement.
In Ms. Kim’s remarks, she also suggested that the North Korean leader was also suffering from fever symptoms, marking the first time that Kim was likely infected.