North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down the capital, Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against the coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday.
Kim’s government also ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke the United States because it is worried about President-elect Joe Biden’s expected new approach toward North Korea, lawmakers told reporters after attending a private briefing by the National Intelligence Service.
One of the lawmakers, Ha Tae-keung, quoted the NIS as saying Kim is displaying “excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” over the pandemic and its economic impact.
Ha said the NIS told lawmakers that North Korea executed a high-profile money changer in Pyongyang last month after holding the person responsible for a falling exchange rate. He quoted the NIS as saying that North Korea also executed a key official in August for violating government regulations restricting goods brought from abroad. The two people weren’t identified by name.
North Korea has also banned fishing and salt production at sea to prevent seawater from being infected with the virus, the NIS told lawmakers.
North Korea recently placed Pyongyang and northern Jagang province under lockdown over virus concerns. Earlier this month, it imposed lockdown measures in other areas where officials found unauthorized goods and foreign currencies that were brought in, Ha cited the NIS as saying.
The agency has a mixed record in confirming developments in North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive nations. The NIS said it couldn’t immediately confirm the lawmakers’ accounts.
North Korea has maintained that it hasn’t found a single coronavirus case on its soil, a claim disputed by outside experts, although it says it is making all-out efforts to prevent the virus’s spread. A major outbreak could have dire consequences because the North’s health care system remains crippled and suffers from a chronic lack of medical supplies.
The pandemic forced North Korea to seal its border with China, its biggest trading partner and aid benefactor, in January. The closure, along with a series of natural disasters over the summer, dealt a heavy blow to the North’s economy, which has been under punishing U.S.-led sanctions.
North Korea’s trade with China in the first 10 months of this year totaled $530 million, about 25% of the corresponding figure last year. The price of sugar and…
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