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'North Korea low on daily necessities after shutting down borders'

A staff member of the Pongnam Noodle House,<strong></strong> right, disinfects the hands of a woman coming into its restaurant in Pyongyang, Feb. 5. AP-Yonhap
A staff member of the Pongnam Noodle House, right, disinfects the hands of a woman coming into its restaurant in Pyongyang, Feb. 5. AP-Yonhap

By Do Je-hae

North Korea seems to be struggling with acquiring daily necessities due to its shutdown of borders with adjacent countries to guard against the spread of COVID-19, according to the diplomatic community there.

Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Matsegora said in a recent interview with Interfax that the prolonged border shutdown is leading to shortages of sugar and flour, among other basic items, according to the Korean website of Radio Free Asia, Monday.

Ambassador Matsegora explained that North Korea has kept its borders closed since January 2020 to prevent entry from China and Russia in order to keep COVID-19 out of the country. No foreigners have been allowed to enter since.

The North Korean authorities openly acknowledge that they are going all out to prevent the inflow of the coronavirus pandemic because they lack the medical infrastructure to cope with an outbreak. Many companies have been closed and many people have lost their jobs due to the border blockade and the suspension of imports. Children were also unable to go to school for all of last year, according to the ambassador.

Over 60% of South Korean youth say unification with North Korea. necessary: survey Over 60% of South Korean youth say unification with North Korea. necessary: survey 2021-02-09 14:07  |  North Korea
The Russian envoy also said the shutdown was starting to affect the lives of diplomats and the foreign community in Pyongyang.

Some employees at the embassy were having difficulty getting clothing and shoes as prices have tripled or quadrupled compared to before the pandemic, he said.

The envoy said that diplomats and employees of international organizations in Pyongyang have been prohibited from traveling outside the capital since January 2020, and young children of diplomats have been unable to step outside their embassies.

Some embassies such as that of the U.K. embassy have shut down temporarily amid the strengthened measures to fight COVID-19, according to latest reports.

During a speech at a military parade to mark the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in October 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that there have been no confirmed COVID-19 infections in his country and still claims this to be the case.



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