North Korea hiding coronavirus quarantine camps on China border?

From the beginning of the pandemic, North Korea has claimed to be among a handful of countries without a single case of Covid-19.


Almost a year into the global emergency, a growing body of unverified reports and testimony from inside the notoriously secretive country is fuelling doubt about the North’s claimed clean bill of health.


The steady trickle of information – much of it based on second or third-hand recounting of claims by anonymous sources inside North Korea – raises the possibility of a humanitarian disaster in a country with poor medical care and widespread chronic malnourishment.

Tim Peters, a Christian activist who runs Seoul-based non-profit Helping Hands Korea, said sources in the North had reported the establishment of “quarantine camps” in cities near the Chinese border where medical neglect and starvation were common.

“One of the more alarming pieces of information that has come our way is that the DPRK government is providing absolutely minimal or no food or medicine to those who are interred there,” said Peters, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “So, it’s up to the families of the quarantined citizens to come to the edge of the camps and bring food to keep quarantined relatives alive along with whatever health-related aids that they can muster, whether it be purchased medicines sold in the jangmadang markets, or even herbal home remedies gathered from mountainsides. My sources indicate many in these camps have already died, not only from the pandemic but also from starvation and related causes.”

Peters, whose NGO delivers medical and other supplies to the North, said the reported neglect matched the testimony of survivors of the country’s prison camps, where “providing an absolutely minimum amount of food” is routine and inmates often succumb to starvation without the support of their families.

David Lee, a pastor who works with North Korean defectors in Seoul, said refugees who kept in contact with relatives still in the country had reported cases of people with symptoms “being forced into isolation, or being boarded up in their homes without food or other support and left to die”.


Lee said North Korean authorities had little means to track the spread of the virus known inside the country as the “ghost disease”.

“They don’t have proper testing kits,” he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, another South Korea-based human rights activist said he had learned authorities recently incinerated a number of bodies after a suspected Covid-19 case involving a trader who did business with China under the radar.


“The central inspection authorities came from Pyongyang and burned all the bodies,” said the activist, who said he obtained his information from a dissident broadcaster in the North. “The residents are very anxious.”


The South China Morning Post could not independently confirm the information it received about the pandemic situation in the country.

North Korea hiding coronavirus quarantine camps on China border? North Korea hiding coronavirus quarantine camps on China border? Reviewed by Anson Moore on November 03, 2020 Rating: 5

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