North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said his country was facing a “great crisis” thanks to the “incapable and irresponsible work attitude” of his underlings, during a recent speech about the covid-19 pandemic, portions of which were published on Wednesday.
And while Kim didn’t get into specifics about just how dire the coronavirus situation was in North Korea, he said that top officials in his government had already been fired.
“Senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign associated with the worldwide health crisis,” Kim said, according to North Korean state news outlet KCNA and South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
“And thus caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences,” Kim reportedly continued.
North Korea has long claimed that covid-19 has yet to pierce its borders, but Kim’s latest announcement suggests the country could be struggling with the pandemic much more than it initially let on. The North Korean regime closed its borders to Russia and China early in the pandemic and has yet to officially open to either geopolitical ally.
Some North Korea watchers in the west have noted that Kim Jong Un recently appeared in public with some dramatic weight loss, leading to even more speculation about whether it has anything to do with the covid-19 pandemic. The official story is that Kim has lost weight in solidarity with his people.
Kim noted last week that North Korea faced a “tense” food situation, with a dramatic spike in agricultural prices and poor harvests in the country. A kilogram of bananas (roughly seven bananas) currently costs roughly $US45 ($58) in North Korea, according to NK News.
This latest bulletin from KCNA, North Korea’s most important state-run news outlet, was filled with the dense and over-the-top language typical of the authoritarian regime. As just one example of the incredibly weird wording in this new report:
Noting that in order to raise the political awareness of the cadres it is necessary to strengthen refinement and tempering through Party life, he said that they have to honestly take part in the Party’s organizational and ideological life, and improve and temper themselves in a revolutionary way, not just because they are monitored and asked to do by others, but for the Party and the revolution, for the high militant efficiency of their Party organisations and for their own political integrity.
Naturally, it’s difficult to parse what’s going on in North Korea for a number of reasons. But people outside of the country are left to decipher serious and dangerous situations through little glimpses of propaganda like this.
What’s happening in North Korea right now? It’s tough to say, but when its dictator suggests that covid-19 might not be under control, it’s probably a safe bet that things have gotten very bad.