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N. Korea's No. 2 leader visits Kaesong after lockdown amid virus fears

All News 09:08 July 30, 2020

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's No. 2 leader has visited the border city of Kaesong to inspect antivirus efforts, state media reported Thursday, after leader Kim Jong-un sealed off the town over virus fears following the return of a defector from South Korea.

On Sunday, North Korea said that it has put Kaesong on lockdown, claiming that a "runaway" defector suspected of COVID-19 infection recently came back from the South. Seoul later said a North Korean defector is believed to have swum across the border but doubted he had contracted the virus.

Choe Ryong-hae, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, visited Kaesong and inspected emergency antivirus efforts underway in the town, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Choe held a meeting with local officials and instructed them to make sure that food and medical supplies are provided to residents in need and that disinfection and other antivirus measures should be strictly carried out as required, KCNA added.

His trip to Kaesong appears aimed at emphasizing the importance of antivirus efforts and urging people to stay vigilant amid growing fears that the coronavirus could break out in the border town and spread to the rest of the country.

North Korea has said it is coronavirus-free, but outside observers have questioned the claim since it has a long and porous border with China hard-hit by the virus and is known to have underequipped and understaffed infrastructure to cope with such highly contagious diseases.

Despite its claim to be free of the virus, the North has taken relatively swift and drastic measures, shutting down its borders since late January and tightening quarantine measures. Pyongyang has called its fight against the virus a "political matter" that will determine the fate of the country.

North Korea's No. 2 leader Choe Ryong-hae visits the border town of Kaesong to inspect antivirus efforts after it was sealed off amid COVID-19 fears in this photo disclosed by the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling party, on July 30, 2020. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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