While there are no reported cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), reporters and experts continue to speculate that Pyongyang is covering up an outbreak and that leader Kim Jong Un is riding out the crisis far from the metropolitan capital.
Kim Drilling Army Far From Capital
According to media reports, Kim has been absent from Pyongyang since February 26, when he traveled to the eastern city of Wonsan to oversee a variety of military drills, including the March 2 and March 9 test firing of short-range projectiles in the Sea of Japan.
Kim Dong Yub, a professor at Changwon’s Kyungnam University, told the Seoul-based Korea Times on Friday that “if Kim went to the Wonsan area at the end of February, he has been staying in the eastern region for over 10 days. It could be related to the COVID-19 situation in Pyongyang.”
The Korea Times noted that “it is rare for a North Korean leader to be away from the capital for such a long time.”
The DPRK hasn’t reported any cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, which broke out in central China late last year. That may owe, in part, to the socialist government’s quick response: when Beijing took drastic measures in January to curb the spread of the virus from Hubei Province, Pyongyang followed suit, imposing strict border controls and quarantining both foreigners and Koreans who came in contact with them, as well as obtaining test kits from China and Russia.