North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un called for the construction of “modern general hospital” this week to “better protect the precious health and safety of our people,” despite the fact his country denies having any cases of Chinese coronavirus.
According to state propaganda outlet Rodung Sinmun, Kim visited the hospital construction site in Pyongyang on Tuesday, where he delivered a speech entitled “Let Us Build the Pyongyang General Hospital in an Excellent Way, Greeting the 75th Founding Anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” Kim’s presence in the capital was notable as reports surfaced that he had taken to hiding in Wonsan, a coastal resort town, out of fear of contracting the coronavirus himself.
He made various rambling remarks explaining his decision to build the facility:
Our Party analyzed and assessed the present state of public health service, medical service, in the country … and, feeling miserably self-critical of the fact that there is no perfect and modern medical service establishment even in the capital city, discussed and decided on building in this year of the 75th anniversary of its founding a modern general hospital first in Pyongyang for the promotion of people’s health.
Kim also explained that the hospital would serve as a rebuke to the “mean sanctions and blockade” imposed by the United States and other Western powers:
Comrades – The Pyongyang General Hospital, which will rise up high in the centre of the capital city under the manifold difficulties and hardships, will turn into a structure that demonstrates, as they are, the spirit of our country advancing vigorously towards the better future by frustrating cheerfully the mean sanctions and blockade of the hostile forces and the unchangeable situation of our revolution.
Let us all build just in this place a wonderful hospital for the people as proudly as to be envied by the world by striving hard with sincere devotion of our sweat and blood for today’s honourable and worthwhile construction work for our valuable people.
Rodong Sinmun did not mention the pandemic sweeping the world in its coverage of Kim’s statements, nor did Kim reportedly mention the outbreak at all. The communist regime has yet to officially confirm a single case of the virus nationwide, despite the fact that it is sandwiched between China, the country where the virus originated and the most heavily devastated by it, and South Korea, which itself has identified 8,565 Chinese coronavirus cases and 91 deaths.
Last week, North Korean analysts revealed how, since mid-February, all state media has depicted people in public places wearing surgical masks to help prevent its spread, despite reports that the country has a drastic shortage of the masks. In the majority of cases, it is visible that the masks have been digitally added to the image.
Experts believe the spread of coronavirus in North Korea is fairly serious, and state media has aggressively sought to present an image of a concerted response to the outbreak. No concrete numbers exist of coronavirus cases; the official number is zero. Yet according to sources from inside the country, hundreds of people have already died as a result.
Pyongyang has also imposed various measures to prevent its spread, including the suspension of all foreign tourism, the closure of practically all cross-border traffic with China, stringent observation at entry points, and the mobilization of health workers tasked with monitoring residents and isolating those suspected of carrying it.
Last month, the regime also took the unusual step of canceling two major annual festivals in Pyongyang celebrating the birthday of late dictator Kim Jong-il, indicating a high level of concern about the impact of mass contagion.