North Korea, whose information given is doubtful, you have not yet reported a single case of the virus, a record many have under scrutiny for sharing a border with China. North Korea’s health system, in shambles, could not control a COVID outbreak.
The impossibility of obtaining precise information about the country is due to the control of freedom of expression by the regime, and with the abandonment of diplomats and health agencies based there, it has become impossible.
China, with which North Korea makes economic exchanges, offered the government of Kim Jong Un three million doses of Sinovac, produced in China, along with medical supplies to the country from the UN. Kim Jong-un refused.
South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers that its northern neighbors were in talks with China and Russia to resume cross-border rail routes starting this month and that the authorities they have accepted an increase in shipments of emergency supplies in recent months.
North Korea counts China for more than 90% of its trade, including imports of vital goods like grains, fertilizers, and farm equipment, and its population has long relied on cross-border smuggling and black markets to supplement a dilapidated state rationing system.
Beyond aid from China, the country is facing very bad economic conditions, with a contraction of 4.5% last yearor, the biggest drop in the last decades.
The numbers are still a fraction of the pre-pandemic peak, with total trade in the first nine months of this year reaching $ 185.3 million, compared to $ 1.95 billion during the same period in 2020. The The report came after the release of data from Chinese customs showing that total trade between the allies more than doubled in September to $ 69.9 million.
Although the North’s economy has lagged far behind that of neighboring South Korea for decades, Kim su Oversaw modest growth in the first few years after he assumed power following the death of his father in 2011.
In addition to its isolation due to the pandemic, The North’s economy has been hit hard by extreme weather and international sanctions aimed at stifling the regime’s nuclear and missile programs.
Even when the harvests are good, Korea is hardly self-sufficient in grain, even at the low levels it calculates at “said Alastair Morgan, who served as the UK’s ambassador to the North between 2005 and 2008. In July, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicted that the country might not meet its food needs by 860,000 tonnes in 2021.
“I’m not sure if any branch of DPRK industry, including relatively successful light industry, is or can be completely self-sufficient,” Morgan added.
Before the pandemic, the United Nations estimated that more than one in four North Koreans suffered from malnutrition.
Several humanitarian workers, for example Tim Peters, director of “Helping Hands Korea” (Helping Hands), noticed a “very limited opening of cross-border transport”
“I am aware of this because some of our humanitarian shipments could have been brought across the border at that time to very vulnerable citizens “Peters said, adding that his The organization worked outside government channels and relied on “unofficial methods.”
He added that the isolation had caused the informal markets, known as jangmadang, I know “They will paralyze in obtaining the necessary products to make them available to the public, which has aggravated the difficulties of ordinary people.”
On the other hand, a humanitarian worker argued that his organization had not been able to bring aid to the country, and that any easing with China was for higher trade agreements. “I realize that all things in the DPRK are effectively controlled by the government, but there are gradations of control, and from what I’m seeing, it seems that whatever trade is happening is at a fairly high level ”, the source said, referring to the North by its official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
According to Theo Clement, an adjunct professor at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology and a consultant who has carried out fieldwork on the border between China and the DPRK, he indicates not to trust the trade figures between the two countries, because they are highly manipulated by China. , and they do not take into account smuggling.
“In the China-DPRK trade, although various substitutes are useful to get an idea of the commercial activity between the two countries, nothing beats qualitative fieldwork.”
North Korean Economy Watch, a website that analyzes and reports on the North Korean economy, said Kim could feel safer to “start opening up” once authorities have completed quarantine facilities under construction at the border.
Kim Jong Un, the third member of his family to rule the secret state, has recognized the difficulties facing its population, even comparing the crisis to the 1950-1953 Korean War.
In a speech marking the anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party last month, Kim stressed the need to improve people’s living conditions, after previously admitting that his five-year economic plan had failed.