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N. Korea likely to scale down celebrations for late founder's birthday amid virus fears: official

North Korea 11:39 April 14, 2020

SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is likely to scale down celebrations for the birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung this week as the country is in an all-out fight against the new coronavirus, a unification ministry official said Tuesday.

The North is to mark the 108th birthday anniversary of the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday, one of the biggest national holidays for the reclusive communist state that is usually celebrated with various events, including a military parade.

This year's anniversary comes as North Korea has called for nationwide efforts to prevent an outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic on its soil, urging its people not to let their guard down against the infectious disease.

"In line with (North Korea's) move to maintain its emergency disease control system, we can say that the North could refrain from large-scale events," the ministry official told reporters. "It cannot be said for sure ... but large-scale events will not likely happen, and celebrations, if any, are expected to be scaled down."

North Korea claims to have no coronavirus outbreak, but it has taken relatively drastic and swift antivirus measures such as shutting down its border with China and toughening quarantine criteria. Pyongyang has also canceled a major international marathon race that had been held in time for the late founder's birthday.

On Saturday, the North held a political bureau meeting of the ruling party presided over by leader Kim, saying it has become impossible to remove the danger of the coronavirus "in a short time" and calling for "strict national countermeasures to thoroughly check the infiltration of the virus."


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