Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Kim Jong Un attends funeral amid COVID-19 fears

SEOUL ( Associated Press) — The funeral of a high-ranking North Korean official on Sunday drew a large crowd, including the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported Monday, as the country stood by its disputed claim that his possible coronavirus outbreak is subsiding.

Since admitting this month that it is suffering from an outbreak of the omicron variant of the virus, North Korea has only reported the number of people identified with a fever each day and has only confirmed a few cases as COVID-19.

According to its state media on Monday, 2.8 million people have fallen ill from an unidentified fever but just 68 have died since the end of April, an extremely low number if the disease is suspected to be COVID-19.

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North Korea has limited diagnostic testing capacity, but some experts say it is probably underreporting a fraction of the deaths to protect Kim’s image.

The Korean Central News Agency said Kim had attended the funeral on Sunday for Hyon Chol Hae, a KPA officer who media reports played a role in making him the country’s new leader after Kim’s father died in end of 2011.

State media footage showed Kim, without a mask, carrying Hyon’s coffin with other men wearing masks. He later appeared throwing dirt on the grave in the national cemetery. In the photos, many soldiers in olive green uniforms were seen saluting, while other officials in black suits stood to attention. The official news agency said “a large number” of soldiers and citizens had taken to the streets to express their condolences along the path of Hyon’s coffin to the cemetery.

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North Korea maintains a national quarantine and other strict regulations to curb contagion. Movement between regions is prohibited, although key economic and agricultural industrial activity continues, in an apparent attempt to minimize damage to the country’s already ailing economy.


Associated Press reporter Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.


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