SEOUL, South Korea-North Korea on Thursday announced the outbreak of another infectious disease in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, with leader Kim Jong-un donating his private medicine from people infected with the new disease.
It is not clear how serious the new epidemic will be, but some outside observers say North Korea is probably trying to burn Kim’s image as a leader who takes care of public life because he needs more public support for the pandemics.
Kim on Wednesday offered his family a cure for those diagnosed with an “acute enteric epidemic” in the southwestern city of Haeju, the official Korean central news agency said. The main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, in the north, carried a front-page photo of Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, about salt solutions and other drugs they donated.
The KCNA did not specify exactly what the epidemic was and how many were infected. Some observers say the “enteric epidemic” in North Korea refers to infectious diseases, such as typhus, dysentery or cholera, which are intestinal diseases caused by germs through contaminated food and water or contact with dirt from infected people.
Such diseases are common in North Korea, which does not have good water treatment facilities and whose public health infrastructure has been largely fragmented since the mid-1990s.
After North Korea reported an increase in the number of patients with fever symptoms after their admission to the coronavirus epidemic last month, the South Korean spy agency says a “large number” of fevers include diseases such as measles, typhus and whooping cough.
“Outbreaks of measles or typhus are not uncommon in North Korea. I think it’s true that a contagious disease broke out there, but North Korea used this as an opportunity to emphasize that Kim is worried about its people,” Ahn said. Kyung -su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website focused on health issues in North Korea. “That it’s a political message instead of a medical one.”
According to state media reports, Kim sent her family’s medication to patients with COVID-19 last month.
The KCNA says more than 4.5 million of the country’s 26 million people became ill due to an unknown fever, but only 73 died. The country acknowledges only a fraction of confirmed cases of coronavirus due to the apparent lack of test kits in the country. Many foreign experts question the death of the North, arguing that it was probably not reported to protect Kim from political damage.
During a ruling party conference last week, Kim admitted that the pandemic situation had already entered a phase of “serious crisis.” However, the country still maintains long-term bans, which, according to some foreign experts, would further worsen the country’s already turbulent economy, which has been affected by prolonged border closures and pandemic-related sanctions. On Thursday, the South Korean Ministry of Unification renewed its offer of inter-Korean cooperation in health and medical issues. After the North confessed to the COVID-19 epidemic, South Korea and the United States offered humanitarian shipments of faxes, medical supplies and other assistance, but the North did not respond.
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