The North Korean state news agency reported its propaganda on the (official) “zero cases” of his country. For experts, this is unlikely to be the case

(photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images)

The proximity to South Korea and China does not seem to have represented a risk factor for the spread of the coronavirus in North Korea which to date – at least officially – has not registered any positive cases . Unlikely that this is really the case, but this is the version of dictator Kim Jong-un who, during a meeting with political leaders, explained that the country “prevented the advance of this malicious virus and maintained a stable situation despite the crisis. world health care ”, thanks“ to the far-sighted leadership of the party’s Central Committee ”. A result that, as reported by the state press agency (Kcna), has been called “a brilliant success” by the North Korean leader.

To members of the politburo he explained in detail the national anti-Covid emergency plan, in force for almost six months, and stressed the importance of maintaining this type of measures  because the virus is still too dangerous in neighbouring countries. The KCNA reported that Kim Jong-un appeared very firm on this point, saying that “the rapid release from measures against the epidemic could translate into an unimaginable and irrecoverable crisis” .

North Korea’s political strategy

Kim Jong-un’s national emergency plan, as it already emerged a few months ago , was essentially based on the closure of the state borders since the beginning of January (it was one of the first countries in the world to do so), in an interruption of commercial relations with China, in an ironclad control of the movements of citizens in the country and in the adoption of some anti-crowd measures, such as stopping school activities. Analysts and experts, also considering the precariousness of the national health system , find it hard to believe that no positive case has been recorded. No official data is available provided by the state and external medical personnel, such as volunteers from the International Red Cross, were prevented from entering the country although there were multiple (unconfirmed) reports from infected people.

The substantial part of its anti-Covid measures was played, however, on political propaganda . North Koreans were bombarded with images that contrasted the state of health emergency in other countries of the world with what was happening in North Korea, where, for example, officials were busy disinfecting common spaces. And forced to wear a mask and not to go to crowded places. The message that reached the citizens is that Kim Jong-un saved them from the coronavirus.

Oliver Hotham, a journalist expert in North Korean politics, explained to the BBC that “it is practically impossible that there have been no cases. Instead it could be true that the virus was less violent than elsewhere given the timeliness with which the first containment measures were adopted “ .