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North Korea Projects Prosperity Amid the Pandemic in Latest Video

The reality could be much worse.
IMAGE NORTH KOREAN STATE MEDIA
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For the first time in months, North Korea has allowed a rare yet heavily lensed glimpse into the kind of life inside the reclusive nation. On September 9, the hermit kingdom commemorated its 73rd anniversary the best way it knows how: a military parade.

The extravagant parade features soldiers marching in perfect cadence while wearing hazmat suits—supposedly their PPE for the pandemic. 

It also gives a rare glimpse of Kim Jong-Un, who has visibly lost weight. 

There are also fireworks and the standard presence of women and children waving North Korean flags.

North Korea's September 9 Parade Commemorating Its 73rd Anniversary

But what is striking about the theatrics is not only the absence of tanks and missiles but also the absence of health protocols: Children are seen jumping for joy while not wearing any protective gear. Physical distancing has also gone down the drain. 

Also, why was there only a handful of soldiers wearing PPE? Did the North opt for brassy uniforms in favor of safety protocols? Or were there not enough hazmats to go around? Does North Korea have enough face masks and face shields? Why aren't the people wearing them?

Military officers are seen chanting in unison with mouths wide open—like an open invitation for a COVID-19 infection. 

Despite his significant weight loss, the Supreme Leader looks pleased: He gestures with exuberant vigor to the tens of thousands watching the parade unfold. 

But nothing was exuberant or vigorous about North Korea just three months ago. 

Back in June, Kim Jong-Un berated his top officials at a high-level meeting before saying North Korea was in a great crisis due to COVID-19. Analysts said the rare insight into the high-level meeting of top government officials could also be a sign that the North badly needs international aid.

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Ever since the start of the pandemic, North Korea has sealed its borders, even to China, its only ally. This means that no food and basic commodities are coming to the hermit nation. That also meant a halt to the flow of information from within the country. 

"The harsh measure has also led to a loss of firsthand insights on the country that helped policymakers connect the dots about internal pressures and trends that inform U.S. policy toward the nuclear-armed regime," reported the Washington Post

North Korea's Paranoia

When North Korea's state media releases footage of its internal affairs, there is usually a message it wants to project to the rest of the world. 

The September 9 parade is no different: North Korea wants to project how it is able to manage the pandemic and at the same time achieve some kind of prestige typical of a relatively important occasion. 

The optics run counter to the paranoia the North has displayed in recent months, particularly of its policy of shooting any living thing that crosses its borders. That includes animals. 

The Washington Post reports:

"Pyongyang is so strict about its border enforcement that it has ordered any trespassers—even animals—to be shot without warning, according to an October 2020 decree obtained by NK News, an outlet that follows North Korean affairs. The previous month, North Korea shot dead a South Korean official who disappeared from a fisheries boat, later dousing the man’s body in oil and setting it on fire in an apparent anti-coronavirus measure, South Korean military officials said."

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Prior to the pandemic, North Korea was a bad place. Today, it's even worse. 

“They are a dark country,” Kim Joon-hyung, a professor of international relations at South Korea’s Handong University, tells the Post

"But these days, they are darker.

North Korea has a population of 25 million. In 2019, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food assistance.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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