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Date : November 29, 2022
Covid-19 Used as Pretext to Seal Border
   https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/11/17/north-korea-covid-19-used-pretext-… [745]

North Korea: Covid-19 Used as Pretext to Seal Border

(Seoul) – The North Korean government has substantially increased security along its northern border, using Covid-19 as the justification, further restricting travel and trade, Human Rights Watch said today. An initial analysis of satellite images of the China and Russia border before and after the pandemic started, indicates the nature and extent of the measures that the government of leader Kim Jong Un has taken.

North Korean authorities have imposed excessive and unnecessary Covid-19 measures since January 2020. Saying they were necessary to contain the coronavirus, the authorities have built or upgraded fences, guard posts, patrol roads, and other infrastructure on the border. The increased border security has almost entirely stopped unauthorized cross-border economic activity, which has contributed to severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities. They have also greatly reduced attempts by North Koreans to seek asylum abroad, violating the right to freedom of movement.

“The North Korean government used purported Covid-19 measures to further repress and endanger the North Korean people,” said Lina Yoon, senior Korea researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should redirect its energies to improving access to food, vaccines, and medicine, and respecting freedom of movement and other rights.”

Human Rights Watch has been analyzing satellite imagery covering over 300 kilometers of the northern border, which extends over 1,300 kilometers, comparing security infrastructure there before and after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Preliminary analysis indicates that, since early 2020, the authorities have constructed new primary fences in several areas, set up secondary layers of fencing, upgraded preexisting primary fences, improved or widened patrol paths, and built new garrisons, watchtowers, and guard posts along the border.

Human Rights Watch’s current in-depth analysis focuses on a part of the border covering 7.4 kilometers around Hoeryung city on the Tumen River, across from China’s Jilin province. In 2019, the area around Hoeryung was already almost fully fenced and had five watch towers. Images taken in April 2022 show that, since then, authorities have built another 169 guard posts, 9.2 kilometers of new secondary fencing, and 9.5 kilometers of improved primary fencing. .......

[Source: Human Rights Watch]