Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

In this March 20, 2020, photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervises an artillery firing competition between army units.

The Canadian Press

With international focus on the coronavirus, North Korea has doubled down on its missile development and military exercises in recent weeks while signalling new confidence that it has dodged an outbreak of its own.

Some international experts are skeptical of North Korea’s assertion that it has not had a single case of the new coronavirus, which was first detected in neighbouring China.

But for the first time since late February, North Korean soldiers conducting military drills and test firing short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend were shown not wearing face masks in state media photographs.

Story continues below advertisement

North Korea has said it has released almost all the foreigners it quarantined as a precaution, and in a decision that surprised some experts, announced it would hold a big gathering of its Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) in early April.

“I’m a bit surprised that North Korea decided to go ahead with its spring SPA session,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a Seoul-based analyst for NK News, a website that monitors North Korea.

“That said, this is in line with an apparent shift in North Korean media handling of the coronavirus in the past two weeks which suggested the North Korean regime’s increased confidence in managing the coronavirus situation.”

Besides the SPA announcement, leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, released a statement through state media on Sunday commenting on U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest letter to North Korea, offering coronavirus assistance.

But much of the messaging from Kim Jong-un appears “laser focused” at the domestic audience, said Duyeon Kim, a senior adviser to the International Crisis Group think-tank.

“He’s apparently trying to show his confidence and strength to his people, that he is in control, and that the regime is functioning normally by pursuing its strategic objectives despite a national crisis over a virus they have no control over,” she said.

“He needs to keep his constituents in Pyongyang happy and trying to show North Korea is invincible.”

Story continues below advertisement

’VERY SERIOUS’

State media has broadcast a stream of reports on how seriously the government is taking its virus-prevention efforts.

One report in the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Monday, for example, said a local party official had been punished for undermining nationwide coronavirus prevention measures by organizing drinking parties.

“Under the present situation that witnesses intensified campaign against COVID-19, it comes to be an important political matter that all the people should observe the standards and orders set under the state emergency anti-epidemic system,” the paper said in an editorial, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Some foreign observers have noted that North Korea’s authoritarian government is actually well placed to impose the kind of restrictions that have been successful in slowing the spread of infections in other countries, and that it has a high number of doctors per capita.

But aid organisations have warned that North Korea’s health system is chronically under-resourced, often fails to meet the daily needs of citizens, and would be hard-pressed to handle any major outbreak of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 337,000 people and killed more than 14,650 around the world.

“Hearing from my relatives there, one thing for sure is the situation is very serious,” said a North Korean defector living in South Korea.

Story continues below advertisement

“Otherwise they wouldn’t be so loud on the news about this. There is no way for the residents to know who died.”

The insistence on no coronavirus cases, the SPA presidium and the missile tests were intended to show it was business as usual in North Korea, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London.

“Kim Jong Un is trying really hard to project the image that all is good,” Pardo said in a post on Twitter.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies