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World North Korea’s Kim vents fury as pressure mounts over virus and economy, South says

09:05  27 november  2020
09:05  27 november  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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South Korea continued to pour water on mounting speculation about the health of North Korea ' s leader Kim Jong Un, telling CNN he is "alive and well.".

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TOKYO —Under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and an ailing economy, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is responding with fury, sanctioning at least two executions in the past three months, South Korea's intelligence agency told a parliamentary briefing on Friday.

Kim Jong-un sitting on a table: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a political meeting in Pyongyang, in an undated photo released by North Korean state media on Nov. 16. © Korean Central News Agency/Via Reuters North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a political meeting in Pyongyang, in an undated photo released by North Korean state media on Nov. 16.

“Kim Jong Un is taking irrational actions,” opposition lawmaker Ha Tae-keung told reporters after being briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service. “He is venting his anger excessively and rolling out measures that lack common sense.”

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North Korea fired its latest missile over Japan on Friday. North Korea says it has a plan to target, within reach. The launch followed a fresh round of UN sanctions and was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council as "highly provocative". Is South Korea really planning to kill Kim Jong-un?

South Korea ’ s government has dismissed reports that Kim is seriously ill, saying last week that he appeared to be handling state affairs normally and that there had been no suspicious activities, such as an emergency readiness order issued by the North ’s military or the ruling Workers’ party.

Ha said a foreign exchange dealer had been executed in late October, while an official at a customs post on the Chinese border was executed in August for failing to abide by strict rules on imports intended to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country.

“Key executives faced harsh punishment and even execution for failing to abide by virus rules,” Ha said.

The South Korean intelligence account could not be independently verified. Information flows from secretive North Korea are very limited, and such reports are not always accurate.

But experts say that Kim is likely to be feeling pressure after closing the Chinese border at the start of the year as the coronavirus spread around the world. Trade with China is usually seen as North Korea’s economic lifeline, but that lifeline has effectively been cut.

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South Korean officials condemned North Korea for what they called an "atrocious act" and pressed it punish those responsible. According to the North Korean message, North Korean troops first fired blanks after the man didn't fully explain why he was there, rather than saying he' s from South Korea .

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) North Korea has fired two unidentified short-range projectiles from an area near the coastal city of Wonsan into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea ' s military said Monday. North Korean state media reported that Kim presided over the exercise

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The volume of North Korea’s trade with China dropped by 73 percent in the first three quarters of 2020 compared with same period last year, according to report released Friday by the Korea International Trade Association in Seoul.

Fearing the effects of the virus, North Korea created buffer zones along the border with China and warned that citizens entering without permission would be shot on sight, a measure condemned as a “serious violation of international human rights law” by Human Rights Watch.

The World Health Organization says it has not seen any confirmed cases of coronavirus in North Korea as of Nov. 5, although independent medical experts are skeptical that the virus has been completely kept out of the country.

Ha, the South Korean lawmaker, said prices of sugar and spices in North Korea had risen fourfold as imports from China dried up, while whole cities and even provinces, mostly near the border, had been placed under temporary lockdowns this month after foreign currency smuggling or foreign goods had been detected.

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The viral scourge is far from over in South Korea —a recent outbreak connected to several nightclubs was reported In the immediate aftermath, South Korea ' s legislature created the legal foundation for a comprehensive At Yangji Hospital, this also led to exhausted staff, says hospital director Sang Il Kim .

North Korea ' s leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the south Pyongyang has repeatedly fired projectiles over the past year and bragged about developing a new The U.S. and South Korea have called off joint military exercises due to the outbreak of the virus .

Ha said examples of North Korea’s “paranoia” about the risks of coronavirus included its refusal to accept 110,000 tons of rice aid offered by China, and a decision to ban fishing and salt production in North Korean waters because of concerns that seawater could be contaminated with the virus.

Ha added that North Korea had tried to hack into the computer network of a South Korean drugmaker developing a covid-19 vaccine, but that the attempt had been foiled.

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A Microsoft executive wrote in a blog post earlier this month that North Korea and Russia in recent months had targeted “seven prominent companies directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments” for covid-19 around the world.

Meanwhile, South Korean ruling party lawmaker Kim Byung-kee, who attended the same intelligence briefing, noted that North Korea had not mentioned the U.S. election outcome in state media dispatches, signaling concern in Pyongyang about Joe Biden’s victory.

“North Korea has been telling its foreign missions not to issue election reactions or personal opinions, warning that the head of mission will take responsibility for any relevant issues,” he said. The regime was worried that better relations under President Trump would be nullified and that Washington would revert to the Obama-era approach of “strategic patience” toward North Korea, he added.

Kim said North Korea’s state media had taken between two and nine days to acknowledge election wins by George W. Bush, Barack Obama and President Trump.

The Obama administration refused to negotiate with North Korea for most of its eight years in power, hoping that sanctions would force the regime to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Some experts are concerned that North Korea might conduct a weapons test after Biden takes power, to push its concerns up the new president’s diplomatic agenda. But others say it may wait and see what signals come from the incoming administration.

minjoo.kim@washpost.com

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North Korea Covid: Why Kim Jong Un is cutting off China .
Kim Jong Un appears to have kicked North Korea's Covid-19 prevention plan into overdrive, further tightening the country's nearly impassible borders, cutting off nearly all trade with China and even allegedly executing a customs officials for failing to handle imported goods appropriately. Beijing exported just $253,000 worth of goods to Pyongyang in October -- a drop of 99% from September to October, according to data published by China's customs administration. For context, that's less in terms of dollar value than China exported to Liechtenstein and Monaco during October.

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