North Korean defectors within the South have dismissed accusations from Pyongyang that balloons floated over the border and carrying medicines, money and propaganda messages are the reason for the coronavirus pandemic within the North.
Speaking to DW, the founding father of Fighters for a Free North Korea mentioned Pyongyang’s claims are “nonsense,” and merely an effort to deflect blame away from the regime’s incompetence in coping with the pandemic and a essential scarcity of medicines for civilians.
North Korean well being authorities admitted their first case of coronavirus on May 12, greater than two years after the regime sealed the nation’s borders in what it mentioned was an effort to cease the virus from gaining a foothold within the nation.
Since then, virtually 25 million instances have been reported, though just a few sufferers have formally examined optimistic for the virus.
On May 19, state media reported 262,270 new instances of an unidentified “fever” and one demise toll, bringing the official demise toll to 63.
As of May 15, there have been 240,459 sufferers handled for the “malignant virus” in Pyongyang – round 7% of the town’s inhabitants, Korean Central Television reported.
Pyongyang says 99.98% of its 4.77 million fever sufferers since late April have totally recovered, however due to an obvious lack of testing, it has not printed any knowledge for many who examined optimistic.
On July 1, North Korean authorities introduced that that they had discovered the supply of the epidemic within the North, tracing the route of the an infection again to the small village of Ipho-ri, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula.
‘Alien things coming by wind’
North Korean state media attributed the COVID-19 outbreak within the nation to “alien things coming by wind,” and touchdown near the border with the South.
Korean Central News Agency mentioned the supply of the outbreak was an 18-year-old soldier and a five-year-old youngster who got here into contact with objects close to the border.
State-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper wrote that the soldier and youngster “came into contact with alien things on a hill close to a barracks and residential quarters in Ipho-ri in April.” The paper urged residents to “deal vigilantly” with the “alien things,” in addition to “other climate phenomena and balloons.”
The time period “alien things” is known to imply balloons despatched over the border from the South.
Medical specialists have rejected claims that the balloons are able to transferring coronavirus.
Why Pyongyang fears balloons from South Korea
And Park Sang-hak, 54, who fled from the North in 2000 and is the founding father of Fighters for a Free North Korea, says his group by no means despatched any balloons over the border in early April because the winds have been blowing within the mistaken course.
“We have sent balloons seven times so far this year and we are planning more launches in the near future,” Park informed DW. The final launch was on July 6, when 20 giant balloons full of helium have been launched from a web site west of Seoul carrying 30,000 vitamin C tablets, 70,000 tablets to cut back fevers and 20,000 face masks.
The balloons additionally carried leaflets and banners suspended beneath them denying Pyongyang’s declare that the virus was being unfold by the balloons and inspiring individuals to assist themselves to the medicines they carried.
The banners learn, “We denounced Kim Jong Un, a hypocrite who let the vicious infectious disease from China spread and put the blame on anti-North leaflets.”
“They are telling people the balloons are dangerous as they do not want people to pick them up and read the propaganda leaflets,” Park mentioned. “They want to control want people think and hide the truth about how the virus has spread because there is not enough medicine or health care.”
Concerns over retaliation
The balloons have caught Pyongyang’s consideration, with the weekly Tongil Shinbo condemning the launches and warning that the response would “exceed the destruction” of the North-South liaison workplace that happened within the border city of Kaesong in June 2020.
Previously, the Kim Jong Un regime has warned that it will fireplace throughout the border at any teams it detects launching balloons to cross the border.
“They take this very seriously because the leaflets always criticize Kim Jong Un, and that is not acceptable in North Korea,” mentioned Ahn Yinhay, a professor of worldwide relations at Korea University in Seoul. “They are very delicate and any assault on their ruling household is taken into account to be treason.
“They have made threats on several occasions in the past, but they have not actually fired over the border and into the South yet, so let’s hope that situation continues,” she mentioned. “The problem is that they are very unpredictable, and it is impossible to say that they will definitely not fire at the launch sites. We just have to hope.”
Park mentioned he’ll “continue to send balloons and to tell people in the North the truth.” “I will stop, but only when the people of North Korea are set free from Kim Jong-un and his family.”