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Kim Jong-un is believed to be hiding North Korea’s coronavirus victims from the international community, a humanitarian aid worker has said. Sources told Tim Peters, a Christian activist who runs helping Hands Korea based in Seoul, that the COVID-19 “quarantine camps” have been built to house the patients near the Chinese border.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Mr Peters said that the victims inside the camps were not receiving proper medical attention.
He added that the patients are currently being left to starve to death.
The activist said he was “alarmed” to discover that Mr Kim’s Government “is providing absolutely minimal or no food or medicine to those who are interred there”.
He continued: “So, it’s up to the families of the quarantined citizens to come to the edge of the camps and bring food to keep them alive along with whatever health-related aids that they can muster.”
Mr Peters said those medicines included “sold in the jangmadang markets, or even herbal home remedies gathered from mountainsides.
“My sources indicate many in these camps have already died, not only from the pandemic but also from starvation and related causes.”
North Korea is yet to confirm any cases of the coronavirus.
During a speech to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party, Mr Kim said he was grateful that not a single citizen in North Korea had been infected with the virus.
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But Mr Peters warned that the COVID-19 situation in the country is “gravely serious”.
He added that the details are similar to those emerging about North Korea’s prison camps.
David Lee, a pastor who works with North Korean defectors in Seoul, told the South China Morning Post that the virus is being called a “ghost disease” in the regime.
He said refugees had reported cases of people with coronavirus symptoms “being forced into isolation, or being boarded up in their homes without food or other support and left to die”.
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Officials in North Korea have no way of tracking the spread of the virus or stopping it as “they don’t have proper testing kits”, according to Mr Lee.
The country has been severely impacted by international sanctions imposed due to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
The United Nations has said that as much as 40 percent of the Korean population faces food shortages, which could have been worsened by the severe floods and typhoons.
When the virus outbreak began, North Korea shut down nearly all border traffic in an attempt to prevent the disease entering the country.
At his anniversary speech, Mr Kim was seen visibly emotional as he spoke at the military parade.
He thanked troops for their sacrifices and apologised to North Koreans for failing to improve their lives.
He also praised them for helping to stop the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
In his address, Mr Kim said: “Our people have placed trust, as high as the sky and as deep as the sea, in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily.
“I am really sorry for that.”
He added: “My efforts and sincerity have not been sufficient enough to rid our people of the difficulties in their lives.”
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