Kim Jong-un’s notorious sister is back in the limelight. Not only is Kim Yo Jong reiterating her hostile words against South Korea and the United States, but she is also seeking to reinforce the loyalty of the North Korean people to her brother. How better to combine the two than to infer that the Supreme Leader had, in fact, caught coronavirus.
When North Korea first disclosed cases of a ‘fever’ in May this year, the world waited to see how the country’s rudimentary healthcare system and largely unvaccinated population would cope. Nearly three months after that revelation, Kim Jong-un has ‘declared victory’ over coronavirus. Although the regime still refers to coronavirus euphemistically as a ‘fever’, the leader’s announcement at a national meeting is, to date, the closest admission that coronavirus had penetrated the North’s borders. At that same meeting, however, it was Kim Yo Jong who took centre stage, as she revealed that not even her brother – whose lengthy public absences over the past two years have attracted much speculation – could escape the virus.
The North Korean leader announced that the virus had been ‘eradicated’ owing to the ‘efficiency of the party’ and ‘superiority of the Korean-style socialist system’. Lauding his Workers’ party served as a clarion call that the North Korean people should continue to obey the party’s directives. Yet this is a regime for whom deception, deceit, and dishonesty is the norm. Even as it admitted an ‘explosion’ of fever cases earlier this year, the North’s statistics were dubious. That covid has now suddenly disappeared from the North’s borders is equally questionable, given the North’s meagre testing capabilities and lack of systemic vaccine distribution, despite being aided by the supply of vaccines and masks from China.