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Nampo’s 2021 lockdown led to tragedy for many people

In early 2020, as North Korea implemented a maritime lockdown in response to COVID-19, the port city of Nampo suffered a steep drop in trading activity. However, the city — rather exceptionally — continued to carry out a limited amount of trade as North Korea’s only open door to maritime trade per state policy to “suspend all imports except those of important items we need.”

One day in mid-2021, the authorities suddenly put the city under complete lockdown after several suspected cases of COVID-19 emerged. In response, about 30 drivers who transported items imported through Nampo were immediately placed in quarantine at an athletics village in Waudo District.

At the time, Nampo’s emergency epidemic prevention committee said the quarantine measure was aimed at preventing the spread of the infectious disease. However, six of the roughly 30 quarantined drivers were dragged off to the Nampo branch of the Ministry of State Security and disappeared without a trace.

The six were suspected of colluding with crew members of cargo ships engaged in official state trade to smuggle during the COVID-19 epidemic. During questioning, it emerged that they took money to transport smuggled items quickly out of Nampo in violation of quarantine regulations.

In internal documents, the Nampo branch of the Ministry of State Security made it seem as if the drivers were engaged in espionage activities, saying agents had “uncovered a long-time spy ring in the employ of U.S. imperialists that wished to sow domestic chaos and spread the virus nationwide during the national quarantine crisis.”

The Nampo branch of the Ministry of State Security pointed their daggers at some of the cargo ship crew members who smuggled goods into the city, the nation’s only open port during the COVID-19 border closure, and quarantine officers at Nampo port’s quarantine station who skipped quarantine procedures to ship smuggled goods. Rumors of the incident circulated in Nampo, frightening local residents even further.

Nampo’s horrendous quarantine of physically challenged people

Nampo residents were disturbed by another incident at the time in which disabled individuals who displayed fever symptoms were collectively quarantined in a facility, where they died and were later cremated in a public processing district per quarantine regulations.

In particular, the personnel who cremated the bodies earned people’s ire by absurdly remarking — openly — that while the parents “might be crying on the outside, on the inside, they must be grateful to COVID-19 for killing their handicapped children.”

Recalling the time, one Nampo resident said the city’s denizens “were outraged when disabled people who needed protection were quarantined and died, when living in fear of the state’s severe quarantine restrictions amid a COVID-19 crisis that might never end was painful and difficult enough.

“It was terribly bleak at the time — every time you woke up in the morning, there was talk of someone being dragged off somewhere for violating quarantine police or of someone dying in quarantine,” he said. “One old man was astonished at how frightening the state’s COVID-19 quarantine restrictions were, saying the period reminded him of China’s Cultural Revolution.”

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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Read in Korean

May 22, 2024 at 01:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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