North Korean Covid patients “left to starve to death in quarantine camps”
North Korea has set up “quarantine camps” for Covid-19 patients, where they are deprived of food and medicine, causing many to die of starvation, according to Christians working in the area.
Tim Peters, who runs Seoul-based charity Helping Hands Korea, said sources in the north had given information on the camps that had been set up in cities near the border with China where inmates are provided with “absolutely minimal or no food or medicine”.
“It is up to the families of the quarantined citizens to come to the edge of the camps and bring food to keep quarantined relatives alive along with whatever health-related aids that they can muster,” he said in an interview. This included medicines “sold in the jangmadang [local] markets or even herbal home remedies gathered from mountainsides”.
“My sources indicate many in these camps have already died, not only from the pandemic but also from starvation and related causes,” he said.
Peters, whose NGO delivers medical and other supplies to the North, said the reported neglect matched the testimony of survivors of North Korea’s political labour camps, where many thousands of Christians have been incarcerated. Providing an “absolute minimum amount of food” is routine and inmates often die of starvation without the support of their families, he explained.
David Lee, a pastor who works with North Korean defectors in South Korea’s capital Seoul, said refugees who kept in contact with relatives still in the country had reported cases of people with Covid symptoms being forced into isolation or “being boarded up in their homes without food or other support and left to die”.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un claims that the country is “coronavirus free” and said in a recent speech that he was grateful not a single person had tested positive for the disease.
North Korea is routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. Believers have been executed simply for owning a Bible. Tens of thousands of Christians – sometimes entire families – have been incarcerated in labour camps where they are abused, tortured and worked to death.