By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- Key aides to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, including his sister, have donated medicine to help people stricken with a new infectious disease in the country's southwestern region, according to Pyongyang's state media Friday.
Kim Yo-jong, the leader's younger sister who serves as vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), and other leading officials asked the "primary Party committees of their departments to send medicines prepared by their families with sincerity to households in Haeju City and Kangryong County of South Hwanghae Province where an acute enteric epidemic occurred," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
They include Hyon Song-wol, a vice department director of the Central Committee, known for her role as an orchestra leader and as a delegate in the inter-Korean talks during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.
Jo Yong-won, secretary for organizational affairs of the WPK's Central Committee, said he would "make sure that the families of the officials of the departments of the Party Central Committee voluntarily and morally" help patients relieve their discomfort and pain as soon as possible.
Jo added that he will organize the transportation of medicine to over 800 families suffering from the infectious disease in South Hwanghae Province on Friday. The figure suggests at least 2,000 people could be affected by the illness.
On Thursday, North Korea announced an outbreak of an "acute enteric" infection in Haeju City of South Hwanghae Province. It did not specify what the disease is but it appears to refer to infectious diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, and cholera, which most frequently result from consumption of contaminated food or water and through the feces of infected patients.
The batch of medicine donated by leader Kim earlier this week was successfully delivered to patients in southwestern Haeju City, the KCNA said.
The series of donations made by the Kim family and their key aides appear intended to allay public woes amid growing challenges to fight the spread of the coronavirus and the unidentified illness, observers here say.
Concerns have grown over the impact of the virus outbreak in the impoverished country known for its fragile health care system and chronic food shortages.
Talk of 'normalizing' GSOMIA raises hope, skepticism around Seoul-Tokyo ties
S. Korea, U.S., Japan close ranks amid growing N.K. threats
N. Korea says month-old virus crisis under control, but skepticism lingers
Yoon, Biden agree to broaden, deepen alliance amid N.K. threats, China's assertiveness
Biden's trip highlights commitment to stronger alliance, hope for S. Korea's pivotal role in security: experts