Archive for the ‘SARS’ Category

North Korea’s coronavirus border shutdown: “Nobody is to come into contact with Chinese people”

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

North Korean authorities seem to have basically ordered the country’s border to China shut entirely in response to the coronavirus outbreak, though it’s still unclear to what extent these orders are being implemented. Reuters:

“They’re keeping the cargo out and they’re keeping the Chinese out; nobody can go in or out,” said one source with firsthand knowledge of the situation at the China-North Korea border.

Kang Mi-jin, a North Korean defector in Seoul who reports for the Daily NK website, also confirmed that the border appears to have been almost entirely shut down since at least Jan. 30.

“The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces ordered all guard posts to bar smuggling as well,” she said. “People, freight, nothing can come in or go out.”

Pyongyang has reportedly asked Beijing not to repatriate North Korean defectors detained in China, according to one South Korean pastor who works with refugees.

According to the source with knowledge of the situation at the border, North Koreans who work in restaurants and elsewhere in China, violating United Nations sanctions, are in “virtual captivity” in their homes under instructions from authorities back in North Korea.

North Korea is typically adept at implementing public health interventions and acted “swiftly and decisively” to try to stop the disease from entering the country, but sanctions restrictions could make it difficult for them to get medical supplies, said Harvard Medical School’s Kee Park, who has worked on health care projects in North Korea.

“Their actions, very costly in terms of revenue from tourists and trade as well as administratively for quarantining people, reflect their concerns regarding their health system’s capacity to handle an outbreak,” Park said.

The efforts – which appear to have been successful in preventing any cases in North Korea so far – mean North Korea has severed or drastically restricted the economic ties it relies on.

“There could be a huge impact not just on the North’s market economy, but also on the entire economy of the country,” Kang said. “North Korea promotes localization, but even for products – candies, crackers, or clothing – manufactured in the country, the raw materials come from China.”

Upcoming North Korean political holidays, which usually include gifts of sweets and crackers for children, may be more less festive than usual if the country’s supplies of sugar, flour, and other ingredients are scarce, she said.

Source and full article: “Burdened by sanctions, North Korea sees coronavirus threaten economic lifelines,” Josh Smith, Reuters, 4/2/2020.

Daily NK reports similar that the government has, quite incredibly, shut the crucial Sinuiju port for shipments to and from China:

Daily NK sources reported that with the port’s shutdown, maritime transportation of goods near the Sino-North Korean border have completely come to a halt.

“All the harbors at Sinuiju Port, which were open until at least Jan. 24, have been completely shut down as of Jan. 25,” a North Pyongan Province source told Daily NK on Friday.

“Authorities are prohibiting the movement of both personnel and goods to stop the coronavirus from entering the country,” he added.

Daily NK sources explained that ships leaving for sea must normally receive a confirmation document and undergo a series of inspections at port customs, but all the customs offices are currently closed and all the boats are docked.

Sinuiju Port, which sits opposite the Chinese city of Dandong in Liaoning Province, is a hub for smuggling as well as official trade with China.

Government ships charged with clamping down on smuggling on the Yalu River have also halted operations, Daily NK sources reported.

“Since all the boats are docked, all the anti-smuggling boats working along the Yalu River have anchored as well,” one source said. “The military unit overseeing the boats have given orders that ‘nobody is to come into contact with Chinese people.’”

Smuggling along the Yalu River also appears to have largely stopped, according to Daily NK sources.

”The current atmosphere is such that if anyone were to say they were going out to smuggle, they would be branded a traitor,” one source said.

With North Korea constantly emphasizing the danger posed by the Wuhan coronavirus through state media along with intensifying its border security, smugglers are on their toes, Daily NK sources said.

Not only is there a fear of infection, but smugglers are also worried that being caught smuggling while the government is so intensely guarding the border might lead to much harsher punishment than usual.

Article source: “N. Korea shuts down Sinuiju Port amid coronavirus fears,” Mun Dong Hui, Daily NK, 4/2/2020.

The state is taking very serious measures. According to another Daily NK report (in Korean), medical staff has been dispatched to all customs houses along the Chinese border, and are checking the vitals of everyone who enters from China. In the Nampo port, North Korea’s commercially most important one, foreign passengers are forbidden from leaving their ships and entering the country.

As NK Pro reports, tourism is essentially completely banned, and border crossings with China and Russia completely shut aside from outbound movements of people (with some exceptions, as reported here by Daily NK). Goods may still cross by land between the countries. People who have been to China are quarantined for one month.

Predictably, goods prices have soared as a result of the border closings, particularly on manufactured and imported goods from China. Prices for goods like flour have gone up by 47 percent since January. This is itself very interesting, since we’ve seen such small or non-existent market price changes following sanctions thus far. The most likely reason is that sanctions actually do not greatly impact most goods that matter to people’s everyday lives, and the North Korean government won’t exactly stop goods from crossing the border. Here, however, the government itself is enforcing a blanket ban on crossings. It’s serious, and reportedly even for smugglers.


DPRK acts against sars

Saturday, April 26th, 2003

from the BBC:

North Korea announces tough restrictions in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly respiratory disease Sars.

It has introduced strict quarantine measures and suspended a shipping service to Japan as well as a joint tourism project with South Korea.

Public health officials have outlined some of the steps being taken on state TV.

Emergency anti-epidemic centres have been set up at national and local level and quarantine officers are implementing stringent checks at all points of entry into the country, said Choe Ung-chin, head of the State Hygiene Inspection Institute at the North Korean Public Health Ministry.

Travellers bear cost


North Korea’s proximity to China, where the outbreak was first recorded, is the cause of particular concern.

“Most North Koreans who make business trips abroad and foreigners who enter our country do so via China,” Han Kyong-ho, another senior health official, explained.

“When the international train that runs from Sinuiju [border station] to Pyongyang enters the station, all travellers are thoroughly checked to see if they have Sars symptoms such as fever and dry coughs.

“Furthermore, all travellers coming into the DPRK from the places of origin of Sars are strictly isolated for 10 days.”

Mr Han said that Sars germs could be present in travellers’ luggage or in insects such as cockroaches.

“Therefore, every one of the travellers’ possessions is thoroughly sterilised, and medical inspections of all workers at the station who have had contact with people who have travelled abroad are being carried out in detail,” he said.

At Pyongyang international airport, incoming travellers who display any Sars symptoms are hospitalised while those who do not are quarantined for 10 days at specially designated hotels.

Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reports that the cost of such unforeseen stopovers – 100 euros a night exclusive of meals – will be borne by foreign travellers themselves.

Services suspended


North Korea has also suspended the Man Gyong Bong-92 shipping service to Niigata Port.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the ship was slated to make three port calls to Japan in May, but two have already been cancelled.

The North Korean Government is also reported to have sent emails to thousands of pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans in Japan urging them not to visit their homeland for the time being.

And South Korea’s Hyundai Asan Corp was “stunned” to learn that North Korea had suspended a joint North-South tourism project it operates over Sars fears, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

The South Korean firm has run loss-making cruises for tourists to the North’s scenic Mount Kumgang since 1998 in a symbolic project to promote inter-Korean reconciliation.

The suspension of the tours heightens the possibility that all of Hyundai’s inter-Korean projects may come to a “screeching halt”, at a time when the company has been campaigning hard to revitalize the business, the agency adds.