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Undeterred by coronavirus, 'heroic' North Korean leader refuses to wear mask.

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jung-un inspecting the troops
North Korean supreme leader Kim Jung-un inspecting the troops KCNA VIA KNS/AFP

While South Korea reports the third highest number of coronavirus cases after China, Stalinist North Korea does not report overall figures. Its state controlled media claim that the government has taken ironclad steps to prevent the spreading of the virus to such a point that Supreme Leader feels confident enough to show himself in public without a mouth cap.

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On March 12, The Supreme Leader “guided an artillery fire competition” between two army units. According to the official website of the Korean Central News Agency, officers and soldiers taking part were “greatly excited” to have their beloved leader who “leads the cause of building the army ... with his “gifted military wisdom.”

A slideshow of some 12 pictures shows the great man between his general staff. But different from the other generals, who are all equipped with stern black mouth caps, Kim’s baby face is fully uncovered.

North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un attending an "artillery competition" including land- and sea drills. He is the only one among his staff not wearing a face mask against the coronavirus.
North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un attending an "artillery competition" including land- and sea drills. He is the only one among his staff not wearing a face mask against the coronavirus. © kcna

Kim has overseen multiple military drills in recent weeks as Pyongyang mounts an all-out drive to prevent an outbreak of the disease that has swept around the world from neighboring China.

Thousands have been quarantined and hundreds of foreigners, including diplomats, confined to their residences.

State media constantly exhort citizens to obey health directives and publish images showing universal facemask use -- except by the supreme leader.

No official figures.

While South Korea updates a daily list of casualties (7,979 cases and 67 dead on March 12), the North does not give even an estimate, but reports indicate that one province may have over 2600 cases.

The official press keeps the public updated about “substantial anti-epidemic measures” being taken “in far-sighted manner,” explaining that inhabitants are to “wear masks with a sense of duty,” “thoroughly sterilize doorknobs” while authorities apply a “rigid sterilization” of vehicles used for public transport.

Apart from thorough border checks, North Korean customs authorities also put complete containers, which arrived from abroad in the country’s ports, in quarantine for a period of ten days.  

The Daily NK, a website with articles critical of North Korea, says it saw reports that people who were infected with the virus, or had been in contact with people who were infected, were put under quarantine for at up to days.

It also quotes an article from the official Rodong Sinmun saying that 2,630 people had been under quarantine in Chagang province alone.

Earlier on, KCNA reported that about 380 foreigners in North Korea had been placed under medical surveillance, but last Friday said that 221 of them were freed from “strict confined medical observation.

 

 

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