Kim Jong Un appears to have kicked North Korea’s pandemic 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 official 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.
Why that matters: China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner and effectively the Kim regime’s economic lifeline — the country basically doesn’t import significantly from anywhere else.
Taking Covid seriously: The new customs figures, if accurate, show that Kim appears to be willing to pare back — or even cut off — trade with China to prevent the virus from entering North Korea, even if it means risking the country’s food and fuel supply.
Alleged executions: North Korea has not publicly acknowledged the drop in trade, or the reason behind it, but the pandemic is the most likely explanation. Kim reportedly had two people executed for Covid-19 related crimes, including a customs official who did not follow virus prevention rules while importing goods from China. CNN has not been able to independently confirm news of the execution, nor have North Korean officials publicly confirmed it.
Other extreme measures: North Korean state media reported Sunday that authorities were enacting new, stricter anti-epidemic measures across the country, including increasing the number of guard posts at border crossings and tightening the rules of sea entry in coastal areas. Authorities have even been ordered to “incinerate seaborne rubbish.”
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