Russian diplomats fleeing North Korea described a severe shortage of medicines and other basic commodities in the country, which shows that during the coronavirus pandemic, one of the strictest quarantine systems in the world has triggered a crisis.
In a letter posted online on Thursday, employees of the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang described the “collective withdrawal” of foreign diplomats, predicting that it would be “unfortunately not the last time” due to unbearable conditions in the North Korean capital.
“It’s possible to understand those who left [North] The capital of South Korea.Almost everyone can’t stand the unprecedented comprehensive restrictions [on individuals], There is a sharp shortage of necessities, including medicines, and there is no possibility of solving health problems,” the staff of the Russian embassy wrote.
Russia is one of North Korea’s largest foreign diplomatic institutions, but due to shortages and difficulties in obtaining key medicines, staff have begun to leave. The embassy stated in the letter that Pyongyang “has almost no diplomats” and calculated the total number of international personnel in North Korea at 290. According to reports, as of December last year, all but three foreign aid personnel had been evacuated from the country. The United Nations said last week that no international staff have left the country.
In February, after spending more than 30 hours on the train from Pyongyang to the border, Russian diplomats and their families were forced to cross the border and take a trolley tram.
Since January last year, North Korea’s border has actually been closed, and this may be the worst Covid-19 quarantine area in the world. Analysts say these measures have allowed the government to increase its control over daily life to levels similar to those of the famine years of the 1990s.
Although little information has leaked out of the country, there are signs that food shortages and crises have intensified. Last Saturday the North Korean border guard defected to China after describing “hunger and fatigue.” Although defections happen frequently, it is unusual for such a large group to cross the border at once.
A senior researcher from the North Korean Human Rights Watch said in a report last month that she was told last year that she was short of food, soap, toothpaste and batteries. The volume of trade between North Korea and China fell by about 80%. Last year, imports of food and medicine dropped to almost zero due to the government’s claims that the trade and the “yellow dust” crossing the border from China may lead to proliferation. Coronavirus. Researcher Lina Yoon wrote that the severe floods also disrupted agricultural production and exacerbated the country’s food shortages.
She compared the new “extreme measures” with “strict control.” In the past few decades, the government has controlled all information and the distribution of food and materials while banning “free market” activities. These conditions led to a large-scale famine after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and food supply failed. “
Officially, North Korea reported no cases of coronavirus in the country, thanks to strict travel restrictions and quarantine facilities. But analysts believe that the military and border cities may have outbreaks in places that were later quarantined by the government.
As part of the World Health Organization’s Covax program, North Korea will receive 1.7 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which will provide vaccines to middle- and low-income countries.
Yoon once called on the Biden administration and other foreign governments to prioritize aid to North Korea, rather than focusing mainly on negotiations on its nuclear weapons program. The country resumed testing of cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles last month.
She wrote: “It is important for the world to remember the Korean people, not just nuclear weapons.”