A North Korean official who just returned from China has been executed for going to a public bath while he was meant to be in quarantine, a report in the South has claimed.
The trade official, who had been placed in isolation after returning from China, was arrested and immediately shot for risking the spread of the deadly disease, the Dong-a Ilbo news outlet in South Korea reported.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to “rule by military law” against anyone who leaves quarantine without permission, The Post reported.
Meanwhile, an official at North Korea’s National Security Agency was exiled to work on a farm because he had a recent trip to China, according to the UK’s Mirror.
Some South Korean media outlets have reported several coronavirus cases and possible deaths from the illness in the North – but World Health Organization officials based in Pyongyang told the Voice of America that they have not been notified of any confirmed cases.
North Korea has remained adamant that there have been no cases of coronavirus within its borders, though experts outside the reclusive country – which shares an 880-mile-long border with China – have met that assertion with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“The North Korean authorities have told FAO that there are no cases of the new coronavirus, but we are suspicious of such claims,” Bir Mandal of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization told Korea Biomed, the Mirror reported.
Harry Kazianis, director of Korean Studies at the Center for National Interest, told Fox News that “there is no way that North Korea is not being impacted by the coronavirus.
“They are clearly lying as they don’t want to show any weakness or that there is any threat to the regime,” Kazianis told the outlet. “Considering how there are many porous sections of the North Korea-China border — and how the Kim regime depends on illegal trade to survive — it is clear the virus has come to North Korea.”
Last week, North Korean health ministry official Song In Bom told state media that there are no coronavirus cases in the country, but that they would be prepared in the event that the outbreak spread.
“Just because there is no case of the new coronavirus in our country, we should not be too relieved, but have civil awareness and work together for prevention,” he said, according to Reuters.
But North Korea, with its dated health-care system, is ill-equipped to handle the novel virus, according to aid workers.