07/27/2020, 10.50
NORTH KOREA
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Kim Jong-un declares a state of maximum emergency over coronavirus

A defector returning home from South Korea has been quarantined with COVID-19 symptoms. South Korean police is investigating the 24-year-old over rape allegations involving a North Korean female defector. Pyongyang and Seoul are investigating the incident. Until now, the North had always denied cases of contagion in the country.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has declared a state of “maximum emergency” against the coronavirus, state agency KCNA reported yesterday.

The decision was taken on Saturday at an urgent meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party after a defector returned from South Korea possibly infected with COVID-19.

The defector was spotted on 19 July in the border town of Kaesong. According to press reports, he swam across the border from the island of Gwanghwa, on the western coast. The 24-year-old allegedly evaded South Korean border controls by going through a drain that runs under a barbed wire fence, the same method he used in 2017 to escape from the North.

The man, who is now in quarantine, is under investigation by the South Korean police for allegedly raping a North Korean female defector last month.

The authorities of the two countries have launched an inquiry into what happened along the demarcation line, a heavily fortified area. North Korea’s Central Military Commission has said the military unit responsible for the border crossing will face “severe punishment.”

Until Kim’s emergency statement over the weekend, Pyongyang had always denied any cases of contagion, a claim questioned by the international scientific community.

After the outbreak of the pandemic in China in January, the North Korean regime closed its borders, and adopted strict quarantine measures for imported goods.

For several observers, the spread of the infection in North Korea threatens to stretch an already-burdened health system, which has been negatively affected by years of isolation and international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

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