Our brothers and sisters in North Korea are facing a new kind of danger in the form of the coronavirus – please pray for their protection and for the provision of the right medical treatment.
North Korean defector Timothy Cho knows just how dangerous viral diseases are to those living in poverty in the country. He says, “If there really are people infected with the coronavirus in North Korea, this will have a serious impact. The country has almost no medical facilities or medications. This was one of the reasons why cholera and SARS caused the deaths of many vulnerable children on the streets of North Korea. I was one of those children infected with cholera, and was just waiting for death, without food and medicine.”
The authorities in North Korea have not confirmed any cases of infection, but North Pyongyang Province reported that, on 7 February, five people died after suffering from high fevers at hospitals in Sinuiju, close to the border with China. Pyongyang denied that their deaths were from the coronavirus. However, North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health hints that those who are suspected to be infected, such as those with a fever or cough, are being quarantined and treated.
Timothy Cho says, “A former North Korean diplomat has said, ‘Even the elites have to ration expired paracetamol or ibuprofen when contagious diseases break out.’ If this is the case for even the elites, it explains why North Korea is unable to provide any medical treatment for ordinary people infected with any type of contagious disease.”
INCREASED SECURITY LEADS TO INCREASED PRICES
Almost as serious as the danger of catching the coronavirus are the problems caused by North Korea’s attempts to prevent the disease from coming into the country. Authorities in Pyongyang has decided to completely shut down the border with China and increase the numbers of KPA (the Korean People’s Army) at the border.
This causes increased difficulty in smuggling in food and medicines, and has caused shortages in the raw materials required to operate the factories. According to escapees’ family members in North Korea, in just two weeks, food and fuel prices have skyrocketed.
“If the coronavirus situation goes on, it could lead to long-term problems – even a second economic crisis, leading to starvation for millions,” Timothy says. The famine in North Korea between 1994 and 1998 led to as many as 3.5 million people dying from starvation.
“Given North Korea’s history of failing to report any outbreaks of contagious diseases, I humbly ask for your prayers for the secret believers in North Korea who are suffering in this difficult situation. Pray also for the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children that live on the streets and are more susceptible to infection, with no one to care for them. And pray for God’s mercy on the North Korean regime, that their hearts might open to see the truth in Jesus and His love.”
Open Doors are keeping 60,000 North Korean believers with vital food and aid, as well as providing Bibles, broadcasting Christian radio programmes and providing shelter for those who are able to escape.
*Name changed for security reasons