North Korea has responded to its first Covid outbreak by rolling out the vaccine, and once again Kim Jong-un is receiving all the glory.
Instead of thanking the scientists for developing the treatment, state media has praised their Supreme Leader, describing the vaccine as an ‘Immortal Potion of Love’.
Although the Hermit Kingdom avoided exposure to the virus at its height by shutting its borders, earlier this month authorities announced a national emergency after detecting an outbreak of an Omicron sub-variant.
And now the country has launched a vaccination promotional campaign for soldiers working on a construction project in the country’s capital Pyongyang, Radio Free Asia reports.
A government official who wished to remain anonymous told the outlet, “They play loud political propaganda messages as the soldiers get injected with the vaccines from China. They are calling it a ‘vaccination of love from the Highest Dignity',” a term used to refer to Kim.
They added that on 18 May, broadcast vehicles turned up to document the rollout of the vaccine, stating: “It was like it was a national political event. All of the officials of the construction command came out to the site, and the atmosphere was all serious.
“The broadcasting car played loudspeaker messages saying, ‘The general secretary has decided to import Covid-19 vaccines in the midst of our nation’s difficult situation.’ It was repeatedly emphasising that the vaccines were a gracious gift given to the people from Kim Jong-un.”
But while the soldiers included in the program are grateful to be immunised against the virus, a second source told RFA that people are angry they’ve been excluded, especially since many of those involved in the construction project – including members of the Korean Socialist Women’s League and residential volunteers – haven’t been offered treatment.
“They are saying that the government’s behaviour is ridiculous. They are only vaccinating soldiers, and they are using images of these soldiers, saying how thrilled they are that the Highest Dignity is giving them a special consideration, as propaganda,” said the source.
“A broadcast vehicle that appeared at the vaccination site loudly proclaimed the greatness of the general secretary, who prepared for them the ‘Immortal Potion of Love.’ People saw the scenes of the emotional soldiers, singing, weeping and shouting ‘Manse!’ but they looked on emotionless.”
Although it’s been detailed that China sent North Korea the vaccines, there’s no news on how many doses they received.
The best gauge of the scale of the lockdown in North Korea might end up being state TV. Every morning since the outbreak was announced, it's started at 9am instead of 3pm, presumably because so many people are at home. It's about to do the same today. pic.twitter.com/20rcjNdTny— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) May 23, 2022
Last year, the North Korean government rejected millions of AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines offered to the country by the international community, as they said the ‘jabs should be relocated to harder hit nations’.
As for confirmed cases since the outbreak started, the figures in the country are murky. According to 38 North, a program dedicated to providing the best possible analysis of events in North Korea, only a handful of cases have been reported, with the rest attributed to an unidentified ‘fever’, which it suggests is likely due to ‘insufficient testing capabilities’.
But 38 North’s analysis does outline that approximately 3.1 million people in the country have suffered from ‘fever’, of which 69 have died.