North Korea’s Kim Jong Un faces ‘huge dilemma’ in aid as virus rises

For more than a decade as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un has made “self-reliance” his governing lynchpin, avoided international aid and tried to fix his troubled economy instead of using domestic tactics.

But an illness suspected of Covid-19 makes millions of people sick, Kim stands at a critical juncture: either swallow his arrogance and seek foreign help to fight the disease, or go it alone, with potentially huge casualties that could weaken him. His leadership.

“Kim Jong Un is in a dilemma, a really big dilemma,” said Lim Yul-Chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul. And public confidence in him could be weakened. ”

However, doing nothing can be catastrophic.

Since acknowledging a COVID-19 outbreak last week, North Korea has said “an explosive-borne fever” has killed 56 people and injured about 1.5 million others. External observers suspect that coronavirus was present in most cases.

No matter what North Korea’s state-controlled media says about those who are sick, the outbreak is probably several times worse. North Korea lacks adequate COVID-19 testing, and experts say it means significantly less deaths to avoid potential public unrest that could hurt Kim politically.

Some observers say that of the 26 million people in the country, the death toll is lower for a country that is largely immunized and has a shortage of medicines.

Nam Sung-ook, a professor at Korea University, said the seemingly under-reporting of North’s deaths meant protecting Kim’s authority as he faced “the first and biggest crisis” of his decade-long rule.

The North Korean outbreak could be linked to a massive military parade in Pyongyang in late April, which Kim organized to feature new weapons and loyal troops. The parade drew thousands of troops and residents across the country. After the event, Kim spent several days taking dozens of commemorative group photos with parade participants, all of whom were without masks. Dozens or hundreds of people are involved in most of the photos.

North Korea may be able to publicly hide the actual number of deaths, but the country’s strong restrictions on the rules of movement and segregation could hurt its agriculture. Its economy has already been hit by more than two years of epidemic-caused border closures and other sanctions.

Yang Mu-jin, a professor at North Korea’s Seoul University of North Korean Studies, said North Korea was also concerned about the shortage of medical supplies and food and daily necessities in the market during the border closure.

“They are feeling another ‘tough march,'” Young said, referring to the state’s slogan for a devastating famine in the 1990s that killed thousands.

Kim has previously rejected millions of doses of the vaccine provided by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program. After the North acknowledged an outbreak, South Korea and China offered to supply North Korea with vaccines, drugs and other medical supplies. The United States has said it supports international aid efforts, although it has no current plans to share its vaccine supply with the North.

Receiving external help will put the North, which has always been intensely proud, in a difficult position, despite its poverty. Over the past two years, Kim has repeatedly called his country “impenetrable” to the epidemic. On Saturday, however, he said his country was facing “a major coup” and that those officials must study how China, its only major ally, and other countries managed the epidemic.

NAM, the professor said, said Kim would probably eventually seek Chinese aid shipments, but not from South Korea, the United States or the Kovacs.

“North Korea, which is called an American imperialist and goes beyond the ‘great coup’ with the help of South Korea, will not be tolerated because it goes against the dignity of its supreme leader,” he said.

And North Korea will only accept Chinese aid if it is done in an informal, unpublished manner, because it is a matter of “national pride,” said CO Yu-seok, an analyst at the Seoul-based North Korean Institute of Studies. Agree because it sees aid shipments as a way to strengthen the relationship with a partner because it faces the West.

But Cho Han Boom, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said North Korea could look to South Korea for support because it raises questions about the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine. He said South Korean shipments to the Korean border would also be faster.

Experts are divided over what support North Korea needs most. Some are urging his people to get vaccinated more than once, sending 60 to 70 million vaccine doses. Others say it is too late to send such a large volume, and that North Korea needs more antidotes, test kits, masks and other daily necessities.

Since it is already unrealistic to prevent a virus from spreading among the country’s immunized population, the goal should be to provide limited vaccines to reduce deaths among high-risk groups, including the elderly and those with existing medical conditions, Jung Zhao-hun said. Gachan University of South Korea, Professor of Preventive Medicine.

“A broad national capacity is needed to deal with COVID-19, including the ability to test, treat and vaccinate people with vaccines,” Jung said. “Problems cannot be solved if the outside world helps with one or two of these elements.”

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