The Russian embassy in North Korea announced this Thursday a “collective departure” of officials from the country, due to the “unbearable conditions” of food shortages and basic necessities that are felt in the territory.
The Russian embassy said diplomatic personnel were leaving Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, given the scarcity of essential goods, such as food and medicines.
Living conditions in North Korea have become especially difficult after strict measures have been imposed to combat the covid-19 pandemic. The totalitarian state – which has not confirmed a single case of the virus (although analysts believe there may have been outbreaks in the army and in border cities) – closed the borders and closed entire cities in order to prevent the pandemic.
“It is possible to understand those who leave the Korean capital. Hardly anyone can withstand these unprecedented restrictions [sobre indivíduos], the severe lack of essential goods, including medicines, and the inability to solve any health problem “, wrote the members of the Russian embassy in a Facebook post.
Russia has a strong diplomatic presence in North Korea. However, the restrictions of the pandemic began to alienate the two countries. In February, some Russian diplomats and their families traveled for 32 hours to reach the Russian border. In the note published online, the embassy assured that “there are almost no diplomats left” in Pyongyang, with only 290 professionals left in the country. Last week it was the UN’s turn to reveal that all humanitarian workers had left Korean territory.
“Hunger and fatigue” scenario
North Korea’s borders closed promptly in January 2020, making it probably the most stringent quarantine in the world. Analysts admit that these measures have allowed the government to increase control over Koreans to levels similar to those of the “hungry years” in the 1990s.
Although little information comes from the country, which is under international sanctions because of its nuclear program and ballistic missiles, there are signs of food shortages and an increasingly deep crisis. According to the British newspaper “The Guardian”, last week, six North Korean border guards defected to China, describing a scenario of “hunger and fatigue”.
A report by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed last month that North Korea faces a severe shortage of food, soap, toothpaste and batteries. North Korean trade with China fell by about 80%, with imports of food and medicines dropping to close to zero last year, as the government claimed that the exchange of goods could lead to the spread of the coronavirus.
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