According to Ha Tae-keung, one of the legislators attending the session, the National Intelligence Service told lawmakers at the closed-door briefing that it had not received any information that North Korea had obtained vaccines. He was quoted by NIS as saying that there is no indication that Kim has been vaccinated.
COVAX, the United Nations-backed program to send COVID-19 vaccines around the world, said in February that North Korea could receive 1.9 million doses in the first half of the year. But the shipment hasn’t happened, and there have been no reports that North Korea has tried to secure vaccines for its 26 million people elsewhere.
One of the world’s most secretive countries, the NIS has a mixed record in reporting incidents in North Korea. Some non-governmental experts have speculated that Kim and his top representatives may have received imported vaccines through informal channels.
Another lawmaker, Kim Byung-ki, was quoted by NIS as saying that North Korea’s government is trying to dispel any hope among ordinary citizens that they will receive vaccines from abroad and instead ask them to increase their anti-virus vigilance. urges to promote.
He said North Korea is building guard posts and concrete structures along its border with China to prevent illegal border crossings as part of its anti-virus measures. He said lawmakers were told that North Korea was not even allowing diplomats from its main ally and ally, China, to enter.
Kim Jong Un recently reprimanded top officials for “significant” failures in the containment of the coronavirus, which he said caused a “great crisis”. But his government continues to boast a perfect record in removing the virus from its territory, a claim that is widely questioned by outside experts.
The World Health Organization said last week that North Korea told it it had tested 31,794 people for the virus as of June 24 and all were negative.
In recent speeches, Kim has called on the nation to be prepared for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, indicating the country is unwilling to reopen its borders despite the massive toll on its economy, Which was already devastated by mismanagement and US leadership. Ban on its nuclear program.
According to the NIS briefing, North Korea planned to reopen its border with China in April, but shelved the idea because of a lack of disinfecting equipment, Ha said.
UNICEF, which procures and distributes vaccines on behalf of COVAX, said it was unclear when vaccines could be distributed in North Korea, which had not yet completed its paperwork to receive supplies from COVAX. is.
“WHO and UNICEF are working with the (North Korean) Ministry of Public Health to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility. However, (North Korea) has not yet received vaccines through the COVAX facility and there is no confirmation as to when the country will receive them,” UNICEF said in an emailed statement.
Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification, said North Korea’s anti-virus campaign is focused on tougher quarantines and border controls, and vaccines appear to be a secondary priority.
Kim has repeatedly urged the North Korean people to unite under the leadership of his family to build a self-sustaining economy and cope with the pandemic’s hardships.
On Thursday, Kim paid respects at the mausoleum, where the body of his grandfather, national founder Kim Il Sung, is in the state to mark the 27th anniversary of his death. Like in other recent incidents, he and other top officials were not wearing masks.
During the visit, Ri Pyong Chol, one of Kim’s closest aides, who is considered a central figure in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, stood with Kim not in the front row, but in the third line. This suggests that Ri was dismissed from the powerful five-member Presidium leadership body of the Politburo. North Korean state media recently said that some unidentified top officials, including a member of the presidium, had been sacked.
Some experts say Kim aimed to transfer public discontent over the economic difficulties onto those officials.
Kim appears very thin in recent North Korean photos, prompting speculation that he may have health issues. NIS said it believes Kim dieted to improve her health and lost 10–20 kg (22–44 lb) between February and June.