North Korea’s Supreme Leader has been photographed in a white lab coat examining boxes of drugs with saline solutions alongside his wife, Ri Sol ju. The image was displayed on the country’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, which claimed the pair had donated the medicines. It comes amid an outbreak of an unidentified gastrointestinal disease which is ripping through the country’s southwestern region.
The outbreak has been described as an “acute enteric epidemic” by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Experts suspect the disease to be cholera or typhoid.
The KCNA said: “(Kim) stressed the need to contain the epidemic at the earliest date possible by taking a well-knit measure to quarantine the suspected cases to thoroughly curb its spread, confirming cases through epidemiological examination and scientific tests.”
The agency said the medicines Kim was snapped with will be sent to the port city of Haeju in South Hwanghae province, where the outbreak is occurring.
As North Korea has a lack of good water treatment facilities and has had poor public healthcare infrastructure since the mid-1990s, disease outbreaks of this nature are not uncommon.
It is still unclear how serious the latest outbreak, but it comes as the country is also experiencing a wave of Covid infections.
While it was not admitted until May by North Korea that it was battling Covid, Pyongyang has now declared a state of emergency.
It came after daily confirmed cases surged to almost 393,000.
Outside observers say Kim’s pledge to send medicines to the region affected by the unidentified disease was a bid to help him win popularity over fears the Covid outbreak would damage his reputation.
Shin Young-jeon at Hanyang University’s College of Medicine in Seoul, said: “Intestinal diseases such as typhoid and shigellosis are not particularly new in North Korea but what’s troubling is that it comes at a time when the country is already struggling from COVID-19.”
Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, said: I think it’s true there is an outbreak of an infectious disease there, but North Korea is using it as an opportunity to emphasize that Kim is caring for his people.”
While North Korea recently claimed that it was seeing success in slowing the spread of COVID in the country, the World Health Organization rejected this claim and argued that the outbreak is in fact worsening.
And, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the number of recorded “fever” cases is more than 26,000.
Russia threatens ‘major’ outbreak of fatal disease [REPORT]
Bones discovered at Antarctic glaciers paint ‘disastrous’ picture [REVEAL]
Germany sends Putin huge warning and unveils new ‘panther’ tank [INSIGHT]
The term “fever” cases has reportedly been used because of a lack of testing kits.
KCNA said on Thursday that over 4.5 million out of the country’s total 26 million people have become ill due to an unidentified fever.
According to the agency, 73 have died as a result.