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North Korean leader infected with COVID

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gestures while meeting soldiers from a medical unit who completed emergency anti-epidemic missions. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gestures while meeting soldiers from a medical unit who completed emergency anti-epidemic missions. Yonhap

By Lee Hae-rin

Pyongyang's official Rodong Shinmun daily confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been infected with COVID-19.

The official confirmation by the state-run newspaper came weeks after Kim's sister, Yo-jong, hinted at her brother's infection while presiding over an emergency meeting on Aug. 11 where she declared a victory over the virus. She said her brother was seriously ill with a high fever, but could not lie down due to concerns about caring for the North Korean people.

Rodong Shinmun detailed the North Korean leader's recent moves since the country reported its first confirmed infection case in May.

Regarding Kim's condition, the newspaper said "the much respected leader has greatly suffered in high fever in the middle of the anti-pandemic battle," and he paid a visit to meet the workers who were then infected with the virus. "The workers there were teary and held their emotions as they saw the leader who was there and encouraged them at the risk of contagion," it added.

The daily said Kim contacted the infected workers on May 12 when he declared the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in North Korea during a politburo meeting and then visited the headquarters for disease control and epidemic prevention.

The state-run media has reported Kim's contacts with infected people several times since the breakout in May.

"When the great leader visited the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters on the first night since the maximum emergency anti-pandemic measures have been in place, some of the officials there were already infected with the 'malignant epidemic'," the daily said.

Rodong Sinmun also said that Kim visited pharmacies in Pyongyang in May to check the country's supply of medicine. The report said that one of the pharmacists that Kim met had not fully recovered from a COVID-19 infection and continued coughing while meeting him. The North Korean leader reportedly expressed concerns over the infected pharmacist's health and was seen wearing two layers of dental masks during the tour.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gestures while meeting soldiers from a medical unit who completed emergency anti-epidemic missions. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during a national meeting on anti-epidemic measures in Pyongyang, Aug. 10, in this photo released by the official Korean Central News Agency. Newsis-AP

On Aug. 12, Kim's sister declared victory in the battle over the coronavirus and lifted the country's "maximum emergency anti-pandemic" measures. It was three months after the nation reported the first confirmed case in May.

However, the country saw four additional cases last week, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The total number of infections has not been revealed.

Choi Jong-hoon, a former infectious disease doctor from North Korea, said the state-run newspaper's report appears to be propaganda aiming to maintain loyalty to the party and doubted the nation's claim of overcoming the ongoing global pandemic.

"North Korean people have suffered greatly during the past three years of the pandemic," Choi said, "They have grown tired of financial difficulties and it seems that North Korean officials now feel the need to show the public how Kim Jong-un himself has been in pain and suffered."

Choi added that it is a "nonsense" that the country alone has stamped out the coronavirus, while the rest of the world is still in the midst of the pandemic.


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