North Korea is pushing a coronavirus vaccination program for soldiers working on a Pyongyang construction project with a characteristically bizarre propaganda campaign that refers to the Chinese-made shots as an “immortal potion of love” and an affectionate gift from the “Highest Dignity,” a reverential name for dictator Kim Jong-un.
Tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers have reportedly been assigned to work on a 50,000-unit housing project in the capital of Pyongyang. The project is supposed to be completed by the end of 2025, but progress was imperiled by North Korea’s first (admitted) outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.
The solution, according to anonymous Pyongyang officials who spoke to Radio Free Asia (RFA), was to march the soldier-laborers into “field sanitation centers” and shoot them up with lamentably ineffective Chinese vaccines while loudspeakers blasted weird propaganda messages into their faces:
“It was like it was a national political event. All of the officials of the construction command came out to the site, and the atmosphere was all serious,” [the Pyongyang city official] said.
“The broadcasting car played loudspeaker messages saying, ‘The general secretary has decided to import COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccines in the midst of our nation’s difficult situation. It was repeatedly emphasizing that the vaccines were a gracious gift given to the people from Kim Jong Un,” he said.
“Some of the soldiers were seen raising their hands and giving praise to Kim Jong Un, shedding tears and shouting ‘Manse!,’” said the source, using a Korean phrase usually said during times of overwhelming emotion that directly translates into English as “10,000 years” but effectively means “long live Kim Jong-un” in this context.
"They play loud political propaganda messages as the soldiers get injected with the vaccines from China,” one city official told RFA.https://t.co/zLBrkg3U59
— Radio Free Asia (@RadioFreeAsia) May 27, 2022
Another North Korean source said soldiers “fighting the construction battle” in other parts of the country will be vaccinated, but so far civilians are not getting the shots, not even civilians working on the same projects. The regime has reportedly been telling civilians to battle the Wuhan coronavirus by gargling with saltwater and drinking honey tea — and most of them do not have any honey.
“They are saying that the government’s behavior is ridiculous. They are only vaccinating soldiers, and they are using images of these soldiers, saying how thrilled they are that the Highest Dignity is giving them a special consideration, as propaganda,” a miffed North Korean civilian told RFA.
“A broadcast vehicle that appeared at the vaccination site loudly proclaimed the greatness of the general secretary, who prepared for them the ‘Immortal Potion of Love.’ People saw the scenes of the emotional soldiers, singing, weeping and shouting ‘Manse!’ but they looked on emotionless,” said the disgruntled source.
North Korea refused offers of vaccines from the United States and South Korea, but according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), it began importing Chinese medical supplies in January – long before the secretive regime in Pyongyang was willing to admit it had any coronavirus cases at all.
North Korea imported ventilators, face masks, protective garments, thermometers, disinfectant, and test kits from China in huge quantities at the beginning of 2022, along with 2,198 kilograms of “unidentified vaccines” in February. Prior to January, trade between China and North Korea had been sharply restricted by the latter nation’s coronavirus border controls.
The SCMP noted North Korea is claiming to have achieved “success” in halting the spread of Chinese coronavirus, but refuses to release any verifiable data about infections.
On Friday, the North Korean regime claimed 3.3 million people have reported fevers — the only means North Korea’s primitive medical system has of tracking coronavirus cases — but only 69 people have died in the outbreak.
This would give North Korea a fatality rate of just 0.002 percent, vastly lower than any other country in the world — even lower than China’s untrustworthy data claims to have achieved. International health experts were highly skeptical that North Korea’s malnourished population, much of it living in unsanitary conditions, would magically develop the highest resistance to Chinese coronavirus on Earth.
Those skeptics suspect dictator Kim Jong-un is preparing to declare a miraculous victory over the “great upheaval,” as he calls the pandemic, so he can consolidate public support in the face of economic disaster.
“Our country set a world record for having no single infection for the longest period … and we’ve now made an achievement of reversing the tide of the abrupt outbreak in a short period. This evidently proves the scientific nature of our country’s emergency anti-epidemic steps,” North Korea’s state media trumpeted on Thursday.