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  • North Korea has acknowledged its very first cases of COVID-19 leading the nation's ruler Kim Jong un to declare a national lockdown.


  • The country has so far claimed to have had zero infections during the global pandemic.


  • The exact number of cases or the possible sources of infection are not yet known.


  • North Korea has so far refused to accept international help with vaccinations and has kept its borders shut.


  • Joining us.


  • Now from Seoul is journalist frank smith frank, analysts say this admission could be a call for help.


  • How dangerous could this outbreak be?


  • Well, if we look at North Korea's 26 million, you have 26 million people that are not vaccinated.


  • Take into consideration.


  • Also, the omicron variant, perhaps the most transmissible COVID-19 variant so far and North Korea's dilapidated healthcare system prior to the covid 19 pandemic and for decades it's widely known that North Korea's healthcare is critically underfunded.


  • Understaffed.


  • Under sourced Those three things taken into consideration together with the effect of all Macron and COVID-19 in the most developed countries with very robust health care systems and in North Korea you have a situation where this could spread across the country and have devastating consequences for the north korean population and the fact that omicron can be fatal for the elderly, the more vulnerable who are unvaccinated.


  • Why are some people still moving around then?


  • According to some accounts, this doesn't sound like a proper lockdown.


  • Yes, that comes from an ap photographer that was near the border looking over the border and seeing an agricultural area where people were working in the fields.


  • So it appears that work at least agricultural work in particular has not been exempted.


  • We need to go back to January 2020 when North Korea was the first country to lock down sealing its border with China and 90% of its critical, it's only international trade, this had far reaching economic consequences inside North Korea also as critical goods, health supplies, medicines, some foods, some household goods failed to get into the country.


  • You had foreigners leave the country ngos, these sources of information left the country.


  • So while North Korea prior to this event had a very opaque sort of information structure, What we learned about North Korea was very difficult.


  • Now it's almost impossible to know what's really going on inside North Korea in Pyongyang, for example, other than what we hear from the Korea central News agency at the same time, kim jong un in this meeting of high level officials mentioned the need to continue economic development despite the struggles the country is having now.


  • And if North Korea does actually need help from abroad, is it going to take it when it comes with conditions attached like international surveillance?


  • That's a very good question.


  • You have analysts coming out on on both sides of that today, there is an admission of failure is part of that and people think that that means that North Korea's setting itself up to accept and perhaps even request international aid.


  • All also North Korea has reacted negatively within the country to healthcare officials.


  • It's very unusual for criticism of officials in North Korea to get out.


  • However, there is the potential for broad assistance for countries other than North Korea's sort of arch rivals, South Korea and the U.


  • S.


  • There is the potential for assistance from the broader international community.


  • Ben frank smith in Seoul, thank you.


North Korea has acknowledged its very first cases of COVID-19 leading the nation's ruler Kim Jong un to declare a national lockdown.


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