“Like other North Korean data, the figures are controversial, and we cannot fully believe them,” said Ahn Kyung-su, who runs Seoul-based DPRKHealth.org, a website and network of public health experts who study North Korea. “But what is clear is that North Korea has the Kovid incident and by releasing those figures, North Korea seems to be sending a signal that it is finally ready to receive Kovid-related assistance from outside.”
To date, North Korea has not received any grant of the Covid-19 vaccine from the World Health Organization. South Korean officials hope that humanitarian shipments, including vaccines, could help resume diplomatic dialogue between North Korea and the United States and its allies.
The danger posed by the Kovid outbreak is greater in North Korea than in any other country because most of its people are immunized. In addition, the outbreak could put pressure on the economy, which has already suffered from UN sanctions and North Korea’s decision to close its border with China, its only major trading partner, two years ago.
Lina Yoon, a senior Korea researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “North Koreans are suffering from chronic malnutrition and are unvaccinated, there is hardly any medicine left in the country and the health infrastructure is unable to cope with the epidemic.” “The international community should provide Covid-19-related symptomatic drugs, Covid-19-treated anti-viral drugs, and all necessary infrastructure for vaccine and vaccine storage, including refrigerators, generators and gasoline.”
Hours after acknowledging the outbreak on Thursday, North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast near Pyongyang. This year it was the 16th missile test in the North.
In South Korea, the government of newly elected President Eun Sook-yol has condemned the test as a “serious threat” and “provocation” and accused North Korea of ”duplicity” in its weapons tests when its people were threatened by the coronavirus. . However, it said it was willing to send vaccines, therapeutics and other humanitarian aid to the North.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jane Sackie said the United States had “no plans to share the vaccine” with North Korea. He said the country was “continuing to exploit its own citizens” through its policy of not accepting humanitarian aid during the epidemic.