North Korea declared victory against covid-19 this week, claiming the isolated country eradicated the virus and heavily implying dictator Kim Jong Un had contracted the disease but recovered (he had a “high fever), according to a new report from North Korean state media. Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, also claimed that South Korea had intentionally caused covid-19 to spread in the North, according to NK News.
“The long-suffered quarantine war is finally over and today, we are able to solemnly declare victory,” Kim Jong Un said in Pyongyang on Wednesday, according to an English language translation by NKNews.
The country reported its first case of covid-19 on May 12 of this year and quickly tallied millions of cases by June. Officially, North Korea has recorded over 4.7 million cases and just 74 deaths from the disease, but those numbers are obviously thought to be a vast undercount.
“The death toll of just 74 people in this period is extremely low and can be considered the greatest miracle in the world health community,” Kim said, according to NKNews.
North Korea declined most international offers for covid-19 vaccines and probably does not have a national vaccination program against the disease, though it’s believed China started supplying the country with some doses in recent months. It’s unclear if Kim was vaccinated when he likely contracted covid.
And North Korean state media was in top form in declaring everything with the bombast you’d expect from a dictatorship on Thursday.
“When the respected General Secretary appeared at the platform of the venue of the meeting, all the participants broke into enthusiastic cheers for him, peerless leader, who has vigorously led the Party, state and people to the final victory of the great anti-epidemic war with his tireless and devoted efforts and noble love for the future, out of his heavy duty for taking care of the destiny of the country and the people,” KCNA said in release published online.
While it’s unlikely North Korea’s covid-19 case numbers are correct, it’s within the realm of possibility that the regime has nearly eradicated covid-19. As we’ve seen in China, where it’s arguably harder to hide a pandemic, it’s entirely possible to get case numbers down if you have a large amount of control over a given population’s movements. North Korea is even more restrictive than China, leaving open the possibility that the country really did get cases way down if people were forced to stay home for a few months.
And, again, the story from state media states this “victory” in the cartoonishly weird manner we’ve come to expect, especially about Kim Jong-Un.
“Affirming that the priceless victory gained by us constitutes the victory of our Party’s anti-epidemic policy, the victory of our state’s counter-crisis strategy, the victory of the tenacity and the single-minded unity peculiar to our people and the great victory brought by the advantageous Korean-style socialist system,” KCNA continued.
“He highly praised the workers in the anti-epidemic and public health sectors across the country and army medics for having dedicated all their strength, wisdom and sincerity to the hard and active work for bringing earlier the victory in the maximum emergency anti-epidemic campaign for protecting the security of the state and the people’s wellbeing from the grave health crisis.”
Time will tell whether North Korea’s telling the truth. But we’re not going to hold our breath on this one.