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North Korea under triple threat with heavy rain

Two edited photos from North Korea's Rodong Sinmun,<strong></strong> Wednesday, show maintenance workers checking a water drainage system, as the country is hit by heavy rain and prepares for flooding. Yonhap
Two edited photos from North Korea's Rodong Sinmun, Wednesday, show maintenance workers checking a water drainage system, as the country is hit by heavy rain and prepares for flooding. Yonhap

By Yi Whan-woo

Heavy rainfall is adding another problem for North Korea which is already struggling with poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The North's Korean Central Television (KCTV) citing its weather agency said Tuesday "many parts of the country" have been experiencing the downpour since Monday and that it will continue through Thursday, under the influence of Typhoon No. 4.

A red alert warning ― the highest possible level ― was issued for the inter-Korean border city of Gaeseong, North and South Pyongan provinces, North and South Hwanghae provinces, the southern area of Chagang province and the interior of Kangwon Province.

Each of the seven regions is expected to receive a cumulative rainfall of more than 500 millimeters.

Flood alerts were also issued near the Taedong River, the Chongchon River and the Ryesong River for Thursday and Friday.

This downpour comes after the North adopted a "maximum emergency system" against the coronavirus, July 26.

The North said the measure was in response to the recent return of a defector from the South, who it claims has displayed virus symptoms.

But sources familiar with Pyongyang speculated the reclusive state is losing control against the pandemic and that it is using the defector as a "scapegoat" to justify its claim that it had been coronavirus-free.

Lacking an adequate healthcare system, the North shut down its China border in January when the COVID-19 outbreak was first reported in China.

The sources said the border closure has worsened the country's economy, already hit by U.N. sanctions.

The North has been unable to import many daily necessities such as cooking oil, flour and rice, resulting in skyrocketing prices.

The country's Ministry of Public Health ordered hospitals in each province, city and county to manufacture their own medicines. But most hospitals are unable to carry out this directive given the lack of necessary equipment and raw materials.

International aid groups have sent face masks, test kits and other medical supplies to the North to help it overcome the pandemic. The delivery of supplies, however, has been complicated by export controls, border closures and international sanctions.

"And it is so apparent the heavy rain is dealing another blow to North Korea in addition to the coronavirus and crippled economy," said Kang Myung-do, a defector living in Seoul.

He pointed out the North in the past struggled to cope with natural disasters, as seen in floods and landslides in 2019 when Typhoon Lingling hit the country. The defector said, "It's anybody's guess how many people year will be exposed to higher risk of being infected with coronavirus and other diseases."

Meanwhile, state-controlled media outlets have been promoting propaganda slogans focused on flood prevention efforts, when updating the weather news.


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