- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2022

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is ordering the military to distribute medicine in Pyongyang and blasting top officials as negligent while the reclusive nation battles a surging outbreak of COVID-19.

The country reported eight additional deaths on Monday, bringing its total to 50 since it acknowledged the outbreak last week.

North Korean state media is describing the cases as “fevers,” and it is difficult for the outside world to get a true sense of the scale of the crisis. Officials may be relying on reports of symptoms instead of actual tests to count cases.

It’s clear, however, that Mr. Kim isn’t happy. He blasted the “irresponsible work” and lousy “organizing and executing” of top officials at an emergency meeting Sunday, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Mr. Kim visited a pharmacy to highlight the shoddy supply of medicine.

COVID-19 could be devastating for North Korea, which has a poor health system and hasn’t accepted vaccines from global programs.

South Korea offered to help its neighbor Monday, but Pyongyang has been unresponsive, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

“We must not hold back on providing necessary assistance to the North Korean people, who are exposed to the threat of the coronavirus,” newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said in a speech to the legislature. “If the North Korean authorities accept, we will not spare any necessary support, such as medicine, including COVID-19 vaccines, medical equipment and health care personnel.”

South Korea offered assistance even as Mr. Kim tests missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons. Mr. Yoon said the south will provide assistance regardless of the political situation.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide