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COVID-19 hits N. Korea's economy hard... humanitarian aid in need Updated: 2020-07-17 09:04:33 KST

Staying on the PENINSULA.
North Korea as it claims MAY be FREE from COVID-19 INFECTION CASES BUT the country remains VULNERABLE to COVID-19 ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES.
I have our North Korean affairs correspondent Hong Yoo in the studio FOR MORE on this INEVITABLE REALITY.
Welcome Yoo.

Let's begin with the SEVERITY of the economic SITUATION up North then.

Sunhee, international sanctions had already taken a heavy toll on North Korea's economy even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the situation looks to have worsened.
The Korea Institute for National Unification predicts that prices of food such as rice will skyrocket.
In their latest report on prices and exchange rates in the North Korean market, the think tank said market volatility has risen in the North compared to last year.
With the border shutdowns in place, trade between Pyeongyang and Beijing has also plummeted.
So there are less supplies flowing into the North, prompting ordinary citizens to stock up on goods, thus triggering inflation.
There is also analysis that the North's policy change in restricting imports, issuing government bond, and selling import permits for foreign currency, could have influenced market prices and exchange rates.
North Korea's economic woes are compounded by the international sanctions on the regime that still remain in place.
And most importantly, North Korea is practicing social distancing and strengthening its disease prevention measures, so production has also slowed down, leading to lower food yields.

So is the South Korean government providing any assistance to its northern counterpart?

Yes, the National Assembly has tabled a bill to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea, to help them contain COVID-19.
Ruling party lawmaker Ahn Min-seok proposed the idea of promoting cooperation with the international community in this regard.
This includes supporting private organizations that want to participate in humanitarian aid projects.
He added that this is an effort to mend inter-Korean ties, as well as to promote peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
But no matter how much we want to help the North, nothing can happen if the North does not respond.
And that is why much of our hopes are riding on the new unification minister.
The nominee for Minister of Unification Lee In-young, said right after his nomination that he will go over ways to foster humanitarian cooperation, and stressed the importance of reopening dialogue with North Korea.
We will have to wait and see how the North reacts, once the new unification minister takes up his post.

How about the international community?
Are there efforts there to assist North Korea?

North Korea has taken delivery of thousands of face masks and COVID-19 test kits.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says 4-thousand masks and 10-thousand test kits arrived last week, while protective suits and other supplies are also on the way.
They are set to be distributed by the Red Cross Society of North Korea, with the UN granting a sanctions waiver on aid shipments back in February.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has delivered sanitation goods to 30 hospitals in North Korea in mid-June.
It announced Wednesday that people in Pyeongyang and eight provinces received supplies worth around 58-thousand U.S. dollars.
The SDC says they are preparing to send personal protective equipment such as protective suits, surgical masks, hand sanitizers, gloves and goggles worth around 37-thousand dollars.

Now despite CLAIMS of NO COVID-19 CASES North Korea appears to be taking STRINGENT disease control measures.

Yes Sunhee, North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Wednesday, that enhanced disease prevention measures have now been adopted by the North. It called for vigilance amid the worsening pandemic across the world, and resurgent outbreaks in neighboring countries.
Land borders and ports remain closed and supplies coming through them are being closely monitored.
Goods that come in through ports and train stations must pass an inspection and meet disease prevention requirements in order to be let in.
The regime is making sure that people coming in through ports are being tested for the virus, and waste material onboard vessels are being safely disposed of.
The North is also promoting better public awareness of COVID-19, so they can check themselves into a hospital, if symptoms appear.
In Samjiyon city, all workers and residents are wearing masks, washing their hands often, and boiling water before consumption, as ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Thank you for the coverage Hong Yoo.

My pleasure.
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