North Korea, fighting to contain virus and flooding, says no with outside help

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North Korean state news media have long insisted that there are no coronavirus cases in the country, although outside experts question this claim. The North did not disclose whether the defector who returned from South Korea tested positive for the virus, and South officials said there was no evidence he had it.

The global pandemic and rampant flood damage comes as Mr Kim has failed to lift United Nations sanctions due to his stalled diplomatic relations with President Trump.

By preventing foreign aid, Kim appears to have denied Seoul and Washington a chance to unfreeze relations with the North through humanitarian shipments.

“North Korea’s rejection of flood relief is apparently aimed at preventing transmission of Covid-19 in the country,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “But humanitarian aid is highly politicized by the Kim regime, because it does not want to show weakness to the national population or to its international rivals.”

North Korea has ended its activities with neighboring China, which accounts for nine-tenths of its foreign trade, and cracked down on smugglers who keep their unofficial markets thriving. The country’s exports to China, hit hard by the border closure, fell to $ 27 million in the first half of this year, a 75% drop from a year ago, according to the Korea Institute. for national unification in Seoul. Imports from China fell 67 percent to $ 380 million.

About 60 percent of North Korea’s population faces food insecurity this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

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