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Covid-19: Kim Jong-un sacks North Korean officials after “serious incident”

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North Korean number one Kim Jong-un berated top ruling officials in Pyongyang for failures in tackling the epidemic that resulted in a “serious incident” and endangered the security of the country and its people, the official North Korean news agency reported on Wednesday.

It is a mysterious affair which raises many questions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sacked several senior officials he accused of being responsible for a “serious incident” linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, which Pyongyang has so far not acknowledged the presence on its territory.

These officials “caused a serious incident which is causing a huge crisis for the security of the nation and its people,” Kim Jong-un said at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Labor Party of Korea, as quoted by the official KCNA agency.

The agency did not provide any details on the number of people sacked or on the charges against them, but Kim Jong-un accused them of being “the prey of selfishness and passivity.”

“The incompetence and irresponsibility of senior officials is a major factor slowing down the performance of important tasks,” the North Korean leader added during the meeting, according to KCNA.

Failed health system

Until now, the North Korean regime has always maintained that the Covid-19 epidemic did not arrive on its soil, which many experts doubt.

At the head of a country with a failing health system, Kim Jong-un decided to close North Korea’s borders in January 2020 in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which appeared in his Chinese neighbor.

Pyongyang has never reported a case of Covid-19, neither in the official media, nor through the figures communicated to the World Health Organization.

The information released by KCNA “means North Korea has registered cases,” Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector turned researcher at the World Institute for North Korean Studies, told AFP. in Seoul.

Members of the powerful Political Bureau of the Labor Party of Korea and its presidium were sacked and new members were appointed on Tuesday, KCNA said, adding that government officials had been “transferred” and others “appointed”.

“Tense food situation”

Under international sanctions because of its nuclear program, North Korea has found itself more isolated than ever. Its trade with China, on which it depends heavily, has drastically reduced and aid workers have deserted the country.

Kim Jong-un recently acknowledged that North Korea faces a “tense food situation”, sounding the alarm in a country where the agricultural sector has been in dire straits for years.

The North Korean leader had called in April to “lead a new ‘forced march’ (…) to help the population face the difficulties”.

The “Forced March” is the expression used in the North to refer to the famine of the 1990s which left hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the reduction in aid from Moscow after the Soviet collapse.

With AFP

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