Report: Kim Jong Un admitted COVID-19 in North Korea in July

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Nov. 20 (UPI) — Kim Jong Un acknowledged the presence of COVID-19 cases in North Korea in confidential discussions, according to a Japanese press report.

Asia Press reported Friday that the North Korean leader’s comments made during an “emergency Politburo meeting” July 25 were included in an internal document obtained by the news service.

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The classified document shows Kim addressing the coronavirus pandemic and North Korea’s response to COVID-19 after Pyongyang shuttered its 880-mile border with China.

According to Asia Press, Kim said in the document the regime was unable to block the virus from entering the country. The date of the document indicates admissions about the virus were made before KCNA reported a first suspected COVID-19 case in a defector who had escaped from the South.

The news service previously mentioned the secret document in an October report, and remarks from Kim in July about North Korea’s “strong emergency quarantine measures” over the previous six months.

North Korea’s best efforts did not block the virus from entering the country, however, Kim said, according to the reports.

“In spite of strong emergency quarantine measures that were taken nationwide, [Kim] said he could not stop the novel coronavirus entering North Korean precincts,” the report said, citing the “7-page” North Korean document.

North Korean defectors have previously said the country is poorly equipped to cope with a pandemic. Sources have said the lack of COVID-19 testing kits is part of the problem, according to South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News.

North Korea’s closing of its borders may have had an impact on its economy. Officials in Seoul have previously said the North is facing tough choices. A nationwide lockdown could slow the spread of the virus, but comes at the cost of the economy.

Pyongyang has restricted access, but North Korean trading companies could be continuing to earn foreign currency while supporting the country’s nuclear weapons program.

Two companies, Korea Cholsan General Trading Corp. and Mokran LLC, were added to a list of companies under U.S. Treasury sanctions Thursday.

Korea Cholsan General Trading is based in Pyongyang, and Mokran is in St. Petersburg, Russia, according to Yonhap.