North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un ahead of a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the south side of the military demarcation line that separates North and South Korea in the Panmunjom Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019 Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Kim Jong Un appears to have put North Korea’s pandemic prevention plan into full swing, tightening the country’s almost impassable borders, cutting off almost all trade with China and even executing a customs officer for not treating imported goods properly.
Beijing exported goods worth just $ 253,000 to Pyongyang in October – a 99% decrease from September through October, according to China’s Customs Administration. In terms of dollar value, this is less than China’s exports to Liechtenstein and Monaco in October.
Why it matters: China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and effectively the economic lifeline of the Kim regime – the country does not essentially import much from anywhere else.
Take Covid seriously: The new tariff figures show, if applicable, that Kim appears ready to roll back or even suspend trade with China to prevent the virus from entering North Korea, even if it means putting the country’s food and fuel supplies at risk.
Alleged executions: North Korea hasn’t publicly recognized the drop in trade or the reason for it, but the pandemic is the most likely explanation. Kim reportedly had two people executed for crimes related to Covid-19, including a customs officer who failed to follow virus prevention regulations when importing goods from China. CNN has not been able to independently confirm news of the execution, nor have North Korean officials publicly confirmed it.
Other extreme measures: North Korean state media reported Sunday that authorities across the country were taking new, tougher measures against epidemics, including increasing the number of guards at border crossings and tightening rules for entering coastal areas. The authorities were even ordered to “burn rubbish from the sea”.
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