Covid-19 Outbreak in North Korea

The Covid-19 virus has made it to North Korea and has spread like wildfire. Due to the isolation of the country, the pandemic has had no chance to truly cause any major issues prior to May 8th, but now that it is in North Korea, a major quarantine has been induced on an already locked down country. However, the highly transmissible nature of the Covid-19 virus has caused concerns for a humanitarian crisis. North Korea is particularly vulnerable due to the lack of healthcare and vaccinated people in North Korea. Between May 13th and 14th, 15 people have died and nearly 300,000 cases have been added to the total number of cases, which topped 2.4 million on May 21st. Both the death toll and the number of cases are expected to climb in the next several weeks. All of this occurred just after the discovery of the first case on May 12th. With how quickly this virus is spreading, there are serious concerns, both in and out of the country, regarding healthcare and the well-being of North Korea’s population and economy.

Although it is hard to believe that North Korea’s population of 25.5 million has remained untouched by Covid-19 for so long, the newly introduced pandemic is a struggle North Korea must fight. Because the virus has spread unprecedentedly fast, the country is not nearly as prepared as should have been in order to successfully mitigate the virus. For example, since the start of the pandemic, it is clear that places with strong healthcare systems, large amounts of medical supplies, and higher amounts of people vaccinated against Covid-19 are better protected from a large outbreak, like the one in North Korea. But because North Korea has limited medical resources and very little of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19, the start of the pandemic in North Korea could wreak more havoc than it already has. Some of these effects have already been proven with the number of cases and speed at which they are spreading in North Korea.

Beyond the effect of people dying as cases rise due to the fact no North Koreans have any immunity to the virus, other effects include Kim Jong Un, the dictator who rules North Korea, gaining more power. Because a lot of the country remains undeveloped, the Covid-19 outbreak will give Kim Jong Un an excuse to tighten the restrictions on the country. Before Kim Jong Un was put into power, the country faced a lethal famine in the 1990s. The dictator who ruled over North Korea at this time was able to use the crisis to strengthen the power of the government. This is why it is predictable that Kim will do the same this time around in an attempt to manage the situation. Another possible effect could be more or fewer weaponry tests. It is well-known that North Korea has missiles. These missiles are tested very often. With the outbreak, Kim could become distracted from the use and testing of weapons. It is also possible that the pandemic entering North Korea also could make Kim more hostile and cause him to test more weapons.

You may be wondering how much is actually known about the situation in North Korea if the government controls the news. Well, it is certainly a possibility that propaganda is being spread, but either way, it is interesting to note the amount of information that has been released by North Korea. This could be for numerous reasons, but as President Joe Biden meets with South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol, North Korea may be announcing so much to let the world, specifically the United States, know that they are more important than South Korea. Overall, it is clear that the fact that Covid-19 has reached North Korea has and will have some dangerous effects.

— Emma Javor