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‘N. Korea begins vaccination for party officers,’ says Asahi Shimbun

‘N. Korea begins vaccination for party officers,’ says Asahi Shimbun

Posted December. 16, 2020 07:45,   

Updated December. 16, 2020 07:45


The Asahi Shimbun reported on Tuesday that North Korea imported the COVID-19 vaccine from Russia and begun vaccination.

The Japanese newspaper reported that North Korea purchased vaccines from Russia and started administering them to the officers and authorities of the Workers' Party of Korea, quoting a source knowledgeable of North Korean situations. The vaccine bought by North Korea seems to be Russian-developed Sputnik V with the accurate purchase size remaining unknown.

The newspaper also said it seems unlikely that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take the vaccine when its safety has not been confirmed. According to the Asahi Shimbun, North Korea’s decision on vaccination was made as additional measures are needed to resume economic activities while tight border controls are implemented to stop the virus.

It has been also reported that North Korea imported other COVID-19-related equipment from China. “North Korea seems to have bought thermal imaging cameras from China and began installing at customs near the border with China, such as Sinuiju and Hyesan,” said the Asahi Shimbun. North Korea tightly closed its border, including ports, due to its poor COVID-19 testing and medical system.

Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Monday that the operation of the public transportation system, such as train and bus, across the nation, except for Pyongyang, has been suspended to contain the virus. “The entire public transportation system across the country has been suspended since the beginning of this month under the instruction of the central government to prevent COVID-19 infections,” said a source in North Hamgyong Province to RFA.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funded the development of Sputnik V, said the vaccine has a success rate of 91.4 percent. However, there are still safety issues raised about the Russian-made vaccine for having been approved by the Russian government before Phase 3 clinical trials were completed.

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com