North Korea Executed an Official Who Broke COVID Rules, South Says

Kim Jong Un’s government is said to have executed an official for failing to follow rules on imports.
Junhyup Kwon
Seoul, KR
North Korea Kim Jong Un COVID-19
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a  meeting in Pyongyang. Photo: STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of an official for receiving goods from abroad in violation of measures to fend off COVID-19, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers.

The South Korean National Intelligence Service on Friday said Kim was “taking unreasonable actions” to protect the nation from the coronavirus, according to Ha Tae-keung, a lawmaker who was briefed by the agency.


“The North is even not accepting 110,000 tons of rice aid offered by China,” the South Korean lawmaker said.

The North’s actions, described by Ha as “paranoia,” included banning fishing and salt production due to fear of viral contamination.

Pyongyang also executed a money changer last month over a rapid drop in exchange rate, he said.

North Korea has reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, only 6,173 suspected patients, according to a World Health Organization report published in early November.

The South said the execution of the official was carried out in August in the northwestern city of Sinuiju. The official and the money changer were not named.

The spy agency said North Korea had imposed lockdowns on cities, including the capital city Pyongyang, where it found unauthorized imports.

The agency also accused North Korea of trying to hack into at least one South Korean company developing coronavirus vaccines. The attempt was foiled, the agency said.

The agency’s claims could not be independently verified.

North Korea is under pressure to revive a sluggish economy, as a result of massive flooding this year and the closure of its border with China, its largest trading partner.