Owing to a shortage of vaccine inventory shipped from China, only soldiers who were off-base were vaccinated. As a result, unvaccinated North Korean soldiers were told to use saltwater and other types of traditional medicine to treat the virus.
Due to a vaccination shortage in North Korea, the leadership is instructing unvaccinated soldiers to resort to unproven traditional cures should they develop coronavirus symptoms, according to RFA sources.
North Korea has been obtaining Chinese vaccinations for military usage and has staged well-publicized army immunization campaigns. However, not every member of the military has received the so-called “potion of love” from the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Conversely, they have been instructed to seek unproven folk cures if they become ill.
“Fever continues to emerge among soldiers who could not be vaccinated due to a lack of vaccines,” a resident of South Hwanghae province on the peninsula’s western coast told RFA’s Korean Service under the basis of anonymity for security concerns.
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“Military authorities are recommending folk remedies such as indoor disinfection using mugwort smoke and gargling with salt water,” she said.
Only soldiers who were off-base, according to the insider, were immunized because there was not enough vaccine inventory shipped from China.
“The vaccinations were limited to the soldiers of the military police squadron who perform crackdowns against other soldiers, the communication battalion, the divisional medical office, and the rear support battalion. Even so, soldiers within those units who are on ordinary guard duty, are known to have been excluded from the vaccination,” she said.
“Unvaccinated troops and soldiers were excluded from rural support or community service. Last year, soldiers helped rice planting and harvesting at a nearby farm. But, this spring, the authorities banned the unit from rural support activities due to fear of the spread of COVID-19,” said the source.
According to a local who spoke to RFA under the condition of anonymity so they could talk openly, just the coast guard, the military police, and the employees of military hospitals in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong are immunized.
“The military authorities are designating units and soldiers to be vaccinated separately as there is a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines. Only officers and soldiers who have been vaccinated are permitted to engage in outside activities,” the second source said.
“Most soldiers who did not get vaccinated were instructed not to leave the barracks and to prevent COVID-19 with folk remedies such as mugwort smoke disinfection and gargling salt water,” she said.
According to the source, soldiers who tended to two salmon farms—one of which Kim Jong Un once visited to offer advice on how to run it—were also exempted from vaccination. It is not unusual for locations visited by the nation’s leaders to receive special treatment long after the visit, thus it is odd that the soldiers who raised fish did not get vaccinations.
“There are complaints within the military over what authorities have implemented. The authorities have declared a national emergency and even implemented nationwide lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they have failed to secure enough COVID-19 vaccines,” said the second source.
“Very few soldiers have been vaccinated. However, some soldiers are rather fortunate in that they were not mobilized for rural support labor because they are not vaccinated,” she said.
In May, RFA reported that the North Korean government had started a vaccination campaign for soldiers engaged in a crucial building project in Pyongyang. The ceremony, which saw troops sobbing after receiving Kim Jong Un’s “Immortal Potion of Love,” was captured on camera and utilized in propaganda.
People who were exposed to the propaganda protested that the government had only obtained enough vaccines for the military and not for the ordinary populace.
North Korea proclaimed a “maximum emergency” in May after denying for two years that the pandemic had crossed its impenetrable borders and that the virus had started to spread among attendees of a huge military parade the month before.
State media in North Korea has been broadcasting daily counts of individuals who report fever symptoms, despite the country not keeping track of verified coronavirus cases (perhaps due to a lack of testing equipment).
According to figures cited by the government-run Korea Central News Agency, 4.65 million people had fevers as of Monday, and approximately 99.4 percent of them had recovered.