Is North Korea hiding a bigger problem behind its Covid-19 outbreak? – CNN

by | Jul 5, 2022 | COVID-19

“North Koreans call them rubber band statistics,” he said, in a nod toward Pyongyang’s flexibility with the truth. “It’s hard even for North Korea to know its own numbers.”He speaks with some authority. Choi was a doctor for more than 10 years in North Korea, specializing in infectious diseases before he fled his home country in 2011. He can remember the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004, when he says hundreds of people in the northeastern city of Chongjin, where he was working, began dying after reporting “cold or flu-like symptoms.” Doctors like Choi could only privately suspect SARS was to blame. North Korea had no ability to test for the disease, so officially it recorded zero infections. Its neighbor China reported more than 5,000 cases and hundreds of deaths.Choi can also remember dealing with a nationwide measles outbreak in 2006, armed only with a thermometer; and a 2009 flu pandemic in which even “more people died than during SARS” — a situation made worse by an acute shortage of medicine. In previous epidemics, Choi explains, there was never an incentive for local officials to travel house to house to accurately count cases — they had no masks or gloves and they figured statistics would be massaged by the regime to suit its needs. He assumes little has changed since he left and that history, if not exactly repeating itself, is at least rhyming.What’s North Korea hiding?As with past outbreaks of disease in North Korea, one of the biggest concerns surrounding the country’s Covid outbreak is that Pyongyang’s penchant for secrecy makes it hard to accurately gauge its severity.International NGOs and most foreign embassies have long vacated the country and tightly sealed borders mean access is impossible, making the accounts of defectors like Choi all the more important.Many were surpr …

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