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Kim Jong Un puts North Korean city on lockdown over suspected coronavirus case, says ‘vicious virus’ may be in country – Fox News

After claiming for months that North Korea has no coronavirus cases, dictator Kim Jong Un placed a border city on lockdown after a person was discovered with suspected symptoms, state media reported Sunday.

North Korea’s Central News Agency said Kaesong near the border with South Korea has been shut down after Kim believed the “vicious virus” may have entered the country.

Kim said he took “the preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City and isolating each district and region from the other” on Friday afternoon, the state-run news agency said.

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According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, O Chun-bok, North Korea’s minister of public health, underscored the situation in a news broadcast on Korean Central Television.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea under total lockdown after a person was found there with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, saying “the vicious virus” may have entered the country, state media reported

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea under total lockdown after a person was found there with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, saying “the vicious virus” may have entered the country, state media reported
(Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News/Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“In the past six months since the outbreak of infectious diseases, strong emergency measures have been taken on all fronts across the country,” O said. “Despite the efforts, it appears that a dangerous crisis has occurred in which the virus may have entered our borders.”

State media said the suspected COVID-19 patient is a runaway who fled to South Korea three years ago before illegally returning early last week.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an emergency Politburo meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea Saturday, July 25, 2src2src.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an emergency Politburo meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea Saturday, July 25, 2020.
(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea said respiratory secretion and blood tests showed the person “is suspected to have been infected” with the coronavirus and has since been quarantined.

People who had been in contact with the patient and those who have been in Kaesong in the last five days were also quarantined.

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NK News, an organization that tracks North Korean state-run media, said the person crossed the border on July 19. At a meeting on July 24, top North Korean leadership shifted to a “maximum emergency system” and agreed to put out a “top-class alert.”

If the person is officially declared a coronavirus patient, he or she would be North Korea’s first confirmed case. As the coronavirus has spread globally and shut down various countries this year, North Korea has steadfastly said it has had no cases of the virus, a claim questioned by outside experts.

“It’s impossible for North Korea not to have a single case of coronavirus,” Jung H. Pak, a former CIA analyst on North Korea, told Fox News in March.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk by a map of two Koreas showing North Korea's capital Pyongyang and South Korea's capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2src2src.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk by a map of two Koreas showing North Korea’s capital Pyongyang and South Korea’s capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The Hermit Kingdom has repeatedly said there hasn’t been a single case on its soil but implemented social distancing measures back in April. North Korea also received $900,000 from the World Health Organization in the spring to fight the virus.

NORTH KOREA CLAIMS IT HAS CONQUERED CORONAVIRUS – BUT DOES ANYONE BELIEVE THEM?

In late March, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported more than 100 North Korean soldiers who were stationed at the border with China died from the virus. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo also claimed that Kim was spending “considerable time” away from the capital of Pyongyang due to the virus.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned foreign tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms.

After Kim Jong Un disappeared from public view for weeks in the spring before reemerging, reports also circulated he was concerned about the virus.

The Kaesong lockdown, however, is the first known measure taken in a North Korean city to stem the pandemic.

People make their way in Kaesong, North Korea July 23, 2src19.

People make their way in Kaesong, North Korea July 23, 2019.
(Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News via AP)

Kaesong, with an estimated population of 200,000, is located just north of the heavily fortified border with South Korea. It once hosted the Koreas’ jointly run industrial complex, which has been shuttered since 2016 amid nuclear tensions.

Last month, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong to protest a campaign by South Korean activists who have been sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

One analyst said the announcement Sunday by North Korea was important for several reasons.

“It’s an ice-breaking moment for North Korea to admit a case,” Choo Jae-woo, a professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, told Reuters. “It could be reaching out to the world for help. Perhaps for humanitarian assistance.”

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During an emergency Politburo meeting Saturday, state media said Kim criticized the “loose guard performance” at the border area where the suspected patient crossed over.

Hand clean gels are displayed at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2src2src.

Hand clean gels are displayed at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Kim and other leaders were reportedly briefed on the results of an intensive investigation of a military unit responsible for the crossing and discussed administering “a severe punishment.”

More than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea over the past 20 years to avoid poverty and political suppression, mostly via China. But it is highly unusual for North Korean refugees to return, according to The Associated Press.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pass by a notice about precautions against the coronavirus disease at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2src2src.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pass by a notice about precautions against the coronavirus disease at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea’s military told Yonhap that it appears likely that an individual crossed the border into North Korea, adding that authorities are investigating what route the person used.

Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Korean North

North Korean leader’s sister emerges as policymaker in spat with South Korea – Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is taking a leading role in a new, more hard-line pressure campaign against South Korea, highlighting what analysts say is a substantive policy role that goes beyond being her brother’s assistant.

FILE PHOTO: Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool

Believed to be in her early 30s, Kim Yo Jong is the only close relative of the North Korean leader to play a public role in politics.

During the 2018-2019 flurry of international diplomacy, Kim Yo Jong garnered global attention by leading a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Later, she was often seen dashing about to make sure everything went well for her older brother, including holding an ashtray for him at a train station on his way to a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam.

But this year, Kim has taken on a more public policy role, cementing her status as an influential political player in her own right.

“Prior to this, Kim Yo Jong was portrayed in state media as Kim Jong Un’s sister, his protocol officer, or one of his accompanying officials,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open source intelligence analyst in the U.S. government. “Now, North Koreans know for sure there is more to her than that.”

Kim has worked behind the scenes in North Korea’s propaganda agencies, a role that led the United States to add her to a list of sanctioned senior officials in 2017 because of human rights abuses and censorship.

In March, state media carried the first ever statement by Kim, in which she criticised South Korean authorities. That was followed by several more, including a response to comments by Trump, and last week, a warning that the North would cut communications with South Korea.

Lee said Kim’s statements have a unique style, showcasing her wit and underscoring her powerful position.

“In addition to the harsh words and sarcasm, they can be bitingly witty in ways that the other statements are not,” Lee said. “She seems to have more leeway in crafting her statements, which of course is not surprising.”

When state media announced on Tuesday that the hotlines between North and South Korea would be severed, they said Kim Yo Jong and a longtime hard-liner, Kim Yong Chol, championed the decision at a meeting.

This rare explanation of a policymaking process portrayed Kim Yo Jong as “a very substantive person,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at the Stimson Centre, a U.S.-based think tank.

Madden said this new portrayal of Kim in state media may be a subtle dig at international analysts who have cast doubts on her ability to wield influence in the North’s male-dominated society.

“They clearly have high hopes and expectations for her,” he said. “Not necessarily the next leader, but something of a king maker nonetheless.”

Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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North Korean state media reports Kim Jong Un made first public appearance in weeks – CNN

(CNN)North Korean state-run media is reporting that Kim Jong Un made an appearance at a May Day celebration, which would be his first public appearance in about three weeks.

“Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Cuts Tape For Completion Of Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
KCNA says there was a “completion ceremony of the factory” on Friday, “the international holiday of the working people of the whole world.”
KCNA released a still photograph purportedly showing Kim at the ceremony. The picture shows him cutting a red ribbon, with his sister Kim Yo-jong standing behind him. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the photograph or the date it was shot.
Questions were raised about Kim’s well-being after he missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15. He had been seen four days before that at a politburo meeting, according to North Korean state media, KCNA.
North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Sunday that Kim sent thanks to workers who helped in remodeling the city of Samjiyon.
CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of Sunday’s report and whether the note of thanks came directly from the leader.
The same newspaper said Friday that Kim had “sent thanks” to exemplary party members for their work promoting party policy. The article did not give details for when or how his sentiments were expressed.
It is not the first time North Korean media has reported on Kim’s activities since news of his potential health issues emerged.
US President Donald Trump declined to comment on the May Day appearance report.
“I’d rather not comment on it yet, Kim Jong Un. We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time,” he told reporters before departing the White House for Camp David.
On Sunday, South Korean presidential adviser Moon Chung-in told CNN that the North Korean leader was “alive and well” despite speculation about his well-being.
The adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim had been staying in the Wonsan area on the country’s east coast since April 13, adding: “No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
A website specializing in North Korean affairs published satellite images on Saturday that researchers said showed a train, “probably belonging to Kim Jong Un,” which had been parked at a railway station serving Kim’s luxurious Wonsan compound on the country’s eastern coast since at least April 21.

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North Korean media publishes letter from Kim Jong Un to South Africa’s President dated April 27 – CNN

Seoul (CNN)North Korean state media on Monday published a letter from the country’s leader Kim Jong Un to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulating him on Freedom Day.

CNN has no way of independently verifying the authenticity of the letter and has reported conflicting beliefs by various government officials on Kim’s health condition in the past week.
The message was dated April 27, 2020, KCNA reported, as speculation mounted over Kim’s health after he missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15.
In the letter addressed to Ramaphosa, the North Korean leader expressed his certainty that the two nations’ friendship would unendingly expand and develop, in addition to referencing Freedom Day, a public holiday celebrated in South Africa on Monday.
On Sunday, South Korean presidential adviser Moon Chung-in told CNN that the North Korean leader was “alive and well” despite speculation about his wellbeing. The adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim had been staying in the Wonsan area on the country’s east coast since April 13, adding: “No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
A website specializing in North Korean affairs published satellite images on Saturday that researchers said showed a train, “probably belonging to Kim Jong Un,” which had been parked at a railway station serving Kim’s luxurious Wonsan compound on the country’s eastern coast since at least April 21.
According to 38 North, Kim’s luxurious Wonsan complex includes leisure facilities such as nine large guesthouses, a recreation center, a protected port, a shooting range, a recreation building, a covered dock, and a small runway converted in 2019 into a horse-riding track.
Last week, a US official with direct knowledge told CNN the US was monitoring intelligence suggesting that Kim was in grave danger after surgery. Another US official told CNN on Monday that the concerns about Kim’s health were credible, but the severity was hard to assess.
It followed a report by Daily NK, an online newspaper based in South Korea that focuses on North Korea, that Kim reportedly received a cardiovascular procedure because of “excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork.” The news outlet said the leader was receiving treatment in a villa in Hyangsan County, north of Pyongyang.
After assessing that Kim’s condition had improved, most of the medical team treating him returned to Pyongyang on April 19 while some of them remained to oversee his recovery, according to the news site. CNN was unable to independently confirm the report.
This is the fourth notice in the country’s state media of routine state duties carried out by Kim since April 12 when reports first surfaced that Kim may be unwell.
On Sunday, North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Kim sent thanks to workers who helped in remodeling the city of Samjiyon in North Korea. CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of Sunday’s report and whether the note of thanks came directly from the leader.
Though North Korea has not reported any cases within its borders — a claim public health experts say is unlikely — Pyongyang has taken the pandemic very seriously. The country quickly closed its borders to tourists and quarantined foreign diplomats, who eventually left. State media included several warnings and reports about the importance of proper hygiene in February, while also outlining steps the government was taking to combat the virus.

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