North Korea has decided to cut almost all connections with the outside world in 2020 to prevent an influx of coronavirus cases. The country has not reported a major Covid-19 outbreak, and there has been no evidence that it has occurred, although experts doubt Pyongyang’s claims the country did not see a single case of the virus.
According to the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, foreign diplomats and aid workers have also fled the country en masse in recent months.
North Korean officials announced that the country would not be participating in this summer’s games to “protect the public ahead of the global crisis caused by Covid,” according to a report posted Tuesday on DPRK Sports, a state-owned sports-affairs media company Protect health “19.”
The decision was made by the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), which held a video conference with committee members and sports officials on March 25 in Pyongyang, DPRK Sports reported.
The games are currently taking place from July 23rd to August 8th. The Paralympics will follow from August 24th to September 5th.
This is the first time North Korea has missed the Olympics since boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 2018, the heads of state and government of two Koreas agreed to jointly host the Olympic Games in 2032, but the inter-Korean discussion on this topic ended in 2019.
The Olympics were originally scheduled for 2020 but the pandemic forced organizers to postpone the Olympics for the first time in the event’s history.
The first event of the Games, the Olympic Torch Relay, was officially launched on March 25th. The Olympic flame is now on its way across the country and carried by 10,000 runners through 47 prefectures on a 121-day journey from Fukushima to Tokyo.
However, resuming the Games was a controversial decision with mounting logistical challenges and concerns about the pandemic. Officials in Japan have expressed concern about a possible “fourth wave” in the pandemic, and the city of Osaka has canceled its Olympic torch relay events, citing an increase in cases.
Although public support for the event remains subdued in Japan, the organizers have made progress. The games should look very different this year, however. Last month, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee announced that international viewers would be denied entry to Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus at home and abroad. The Paralympics wouldn’t welcome traveling fans either, the committee said.