Report: North Koreans ‘Unconvinced’ by Claim that Returning Defector Brought Coronavirus

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According to the state propaganda outlet Rodong Sinmun, the recent declaration was the result of the man returning to the area near his hometown Kaesong on July 19, having tested positive for the coronavirus. Sources who spoke with RFA on the condition of anonymity said locals do not buy the story.

“Some conscious residents point out that the authorities are trying to put the blame for the failure of the coronavirus quarantine on a single North Korean refugee who has re-entered North Korea,” said the source, who comes from North Hamgyong province. “The residents are wondering how the background of this decision could [possibly] be due to the symptoms of the returned North Korean refugee.”

“They do not believe the announcement that [authorities] suspected coronavirus symptoms, which [officially] had not been seen in people returning from countries like China and Russia, but were suddenly found in one North Korean refugee,” they continued.

The source also noted that the North is currently engaged in an aggressive campaign to smear the reputations of people who have defected from the country and who now live abroad, particularly in South Korea. Another source told the outlet how residents were “puzzled” by the silence on the large number of cases near the Chinese and Russian borders, adding that authorities are attempting to cover up their failures.

“Most residents are puzzled by the fact that the authorities have been silent on the numerous cases of suspected coronavirus in people near the borders of China and Russia, yet they are making a big deal out of a single returnee to Kaesong,” they explained. “They say the authorities want to shirk responsibility for their failure in the coronavirus quarantine by blaming the returnee, and still have an excuse to tighten control over the movement of residents.”

Doubts about official narratives are likely held by millions of North Koreans, for whom it is illegal to consume any media not created by the Kim regime. One of the most flagrant lies spread in recent months was the idea that the country had not reported a single case of the coronavirus until last week after the global number of cases reached 16 million. According to multiple reports from inside the country, North Korea has already lost thousands of its citizens to the virus, including over 100 members of the military.

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