North Korea has implemented a number of measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, though its claims of zero cases and fatalities is highly unlikely. The government has halted tourism and shut down most of its border, though trade with China has continued. Photos from inside the country in recent weeks show residents and workers taking precautions such as wearing masks and gloves. But images of cramped classrooms and government meetings show challenges in implementing social-distancing measures, and experts have noted that the country lacks a healthcare infrastructure to combat a pandemic. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Like most countries around the world, North Korea has taken a number of drastic measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The Hermit Kingdom has so far reported zero cases and zero fatalities, though it's unlikely that's actually true. Photos from inside the country in recent weeks show masked residents and workers, temperature checks, and efforts to disinfect imported goods and public transportation. Amid the lockdown, speculation has also run rampant regarding the whereabouts of the country's leader Kim Jong Un, who hasn't been seen in public since April 11. Here's what life inside North Korea looks like as the country battles the outbreak.SEE ALSO: 31 photos of North Korea that Kim Jong Un wouldn't want you to see DON'T MISS: What we know about Kim Jong Un's 3 possible heirs North Korea's government acted early to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and appears to have taken the threat seriously.
Source: Reuters First, it suspended foreign tourism in late January.
Source: 38 North The country also said it quarantined 10,000 of its citizens and all of its diplomats.
Source: The New York Times In February, it closed down its 880-mile border with China almost entirely.
Source: 38 North Despite the measures, and images of masks and disinfectant, experts have remained highly skeptical of North Korea's ability to contain an outbreak — decades of sanctions and widespread poverty have gutted the country's healthcare infrastructure.
Sources: The New York Times, Business Insider Chinese authorities even warned residents in border cities not to stray too close to North Korea, lest they be shot by North Korean guards.
Source: Reuters "We're told that we may get killed if we get too close to the border area," one restaurant owner in Jian, China, told Reuters.
But international curiosity about North Korea has remained, and South Koreans are still flocking to their northern border to catch a glimpse of the mysterious country.
North Korea's economy relies on China for trade, and it didn't close off imports and exports entirely — but it did implement strict new disinfectant guidelines for imported goods.
Source: Yonhap News Agency Photos from inside the country in recent weeks have shown North Korean residents and workers taking precautions, wearing masks and gloves.
Healthcare workers have been seen educating North Koreans about coronavirus symptoms and prevention measures.
A university in Pyongyang, the nation's capital, implemented temperature checks before allowing students back on campus after a vacation.
Photos from the university's classrooms showed the students wearing face masks during lessons, though they appeared to be sitting close together instead of the recommended six feet apart.
The students could also be seen cleaning their classrooms before taking their seats.
The country's most important holiday on April 15 still drew crowds to commemorate the birthday of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder and Kim Jong Un's grandfather.
Citizens donned face masks to lay flowers near the statues of Kim Il Sung, and the former leader Kim Jong Il.
North Korea has claimed the country has no coronavirus cases, and no fatalities. That’s almost impossible to believe, experts have said, due to its extensive and ongoing trade with China, the former epicenter of the virus.
Source: 38 North North Korea experts have also noted that a huge swath of the population suffers from conditions like malnutrition and disease — prime conditions for the outbreak to spread.
Source: 38 North Rural communities are particularly vulnerable to poverty and a lack of healthcare resources.
The World Health Organization said it was receiving weekly updates from North Korea, and had sent testing kits and protective equipment to the country. But as of early April, no positive cases had been reported.
Source: Reuters North Korea's state-run media has reported that the government has called for stricter coronavirus measures, though photos of a parliamentary meeting revealed that none of the top officials — including Kim Jong Un — were wearing masks or keeping a safe distance from one another.
Source: AFP The country's secrecy around its likely coronavirus outbreak isn't unusual — the government has also tried to conceal the fact that Kim Jong Un hasn't been seen in weeks.
Rumors have run rampant that the leader could be gravely ill after a surgery, or hiding from the coronavirus. Satellite images have since revealed a number of signs that Kim could be staying in a resort town, but the mystery will likely remain until Kim reappears.
Source: Business Insider, 38 North
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These ridiculous photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse mean everyone should actually be taking North Korea very seriously
North Korean media released photos of dictator Kim Jong Un riding a white horse on a...North Korean media released photos of dictator Kim Jong Un riding a white horse on a symbolically important mountain this week. Photos of the leader there usually precede major announcements from North Korean leadership; experts believe that this time, it could herald a frightening military advancement. The photos are laden with symbolism, from the white horse, to the location, to Kim Jong Un's clothing choices. Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a photoshoot on a white horse on Mt. Paektu, a symbolically important location for his family and for North Korea. Kim Jong Un has had similar trips and photo shoots before; during one such trip, North Korean state media claimed that the rotund dictator climbed Mt. Paektu, while photos of the event showed him in leather business shoes. Of course, the photo caused a stir on Twitter, with some Photoshopping the pictures into prestige drama ads for Netflix: I've got an idea 1/2 pic.twitter.com/PgrgAqDcGa — Dave Schmerler (@DaveSchmerler) October 16, 2019 Or bringing up a similar winter photoshoot: #KimJongUn pic.twitter.com/rlbe4RYKuS — Hope Jahren (@HopeJahren) October 16, 2019 But apart from looking faintly ridiculous to the outside world, the new photos from the Hermit Kingdom are shot through with meaning, according to experts. Read on to see what Kim Jong Un's snowy ride means. SEE ALSO: North Korean hackers reportedly stole $2 billion from banks and cryptocurrencies to build Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons SEE ALSO: US troops bombed their own anti-ISIS headquarters as Turkey-backed fighters closed in during Trump's hasty retreat Propaganda images are nothing new for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean propaganda machine is an important part of the regime. Photos of the North Korean leader climbing the mountain on horseback is "a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution," according to KCNA, the North Korean state media. North Korean propaganda is nothing new; in fact, it's everywhere in the country. From posters showing the US's evil aggression toward North Korea, to Kim's winter wonderland, controlling the message in the hermit kingdom is vital in order to keep citizens obedient and in the dark about the rest of the world. Kim rides an immaculate, snow-white horse to match his surroundings. But it's not just about equine aesthetics. The white steed upon which Kim Jong-Un is seated is reminiscent of the legendary creatures Chollima, a winged horse, and Mallima, a horse with incredible speend and indurance, according to Reuters. Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather, was also supposedly visited by a white steed during his guerilla days, according to The Washington Post. There are postage stamps of Kim Jong Il riding white horses on Mt. Paektu, according to Michael Madden, a North Korea researcher for the Stimson Center, but "no one's had the balls to take a horse up there," he said. Kim Jong Un resembles his grandfather physically, and has had a number of propaganda photos mirroring his grandfather's. Kim Jong Un's resemblance of his grandfather allows him to "project power and gravitas," Madsen told The Guardian in 2014. Kim Jong Un isn't the only person harkening the past in the photo shoot, though; in other photos, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is riding a horse like the one her father used to ride, and is dressed like her grandmother, Kim Il Sung's first wife Kim Jong Suk, who is considered the mother of North Korea and holds vital importance in the country's mythology. Mt. Paektu is a loaded location for the Kim family — and North Koreans. Mt. Paektu is an important place for the Kim family, as it cements their status as the rightful rulers of North Korea. It's said to be the "location of Kim Il Sung's mythical guerrilla base," Joshua Pollack, a North Korea researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told Reuters. Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather, was the first leader of North Korea, and the country's mythology sees him as a great guerilla fighter against imperilalist Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Of this latest photoshoot, Pollack said, "The location and the clothes are meant to evoke the founder's legacy." And according to North Korean state media, Mt. Paektu is where Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, was born, although it's more likely he was born in the Soviet Union. It's also, according to legend, where Dagun, the leader of the first Korean kingdom, was born thousands of years ago, according to the BBC. There are two Kim family compounds nearby, including one built by Kim Jong Il on Mt. Paektu, Madden told Insider. Somewhere in the vicinity — perhaps at that compound — is the secure facility Madden referred to as the "North Korean panic room," where the Kim family can head in case of disaster. They also have the option of crossing the nearby border into China. While the photos may look absurd, they're intended to have a very serious message. "This is a statement, symbolic of defiance," Pollack told The Washington Post. "The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020." North Koreans have suffered from international sanctions due to its nuclear program; the photos seem to show that North Korea will not bow to international pressure. According to multiple reports, Kim Jong Un has visted Mt. Paektu prior to major announcements or policy decisions before. For example, a 2017 trip came just days after the North Korean military launched its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile. Madden told Insider that the photo shoot most likely portends a military announcement of some kind, possibly that North Korea and China are announcing a long-term strategic aggreement. "A member of the Chinese Military Commission is in North Korea right now, and [talks are] going very, very, very well," he told Insider. Madden told Insider that "North Korea in 2020 is either going to launch a rocket, or announce that they have attained the ability to perform sub-critical nuclear tests," and the photos could be in advance of such an announcement. Whatever the announcement is, it's almost certainly not about making concessions to the US or any of its allies, Madden said. "North Korea has massively regressed in the past few months," in terms of foreign policy "and I have no idea why," Madden noted.