North Korean socialist dictator Kim Jong-un presided over an emergency meeting of the communist politburo this weekend to discuss the ongoing strategy against the Chinese coronavirus, state media revealed on Monday.

In his first public appearance in over three weeks, Kim met with senior Korean Workers’ Party members to discuss “COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] and the state anti-epidemic situation and clarified the tasks for the Party, military, and economic fields to further tighten the emergency anti-epidemic front,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim emphasized “the need to keep a high alert, build a tight blocking wall and further intensify the anti-epidemic work, being aware of the important responsibility for the security of the state and the well-being of the people,” the KCNA added.

Kim did not elaborate on what the “anti-epidemic work” would entail, a particularly confusing statement given that North Korea claims it has never had a single coronavirus patient to treat. Last month, Kim made a public appearance to “thank” North Korean citizens for preventing any Chinese coronavirus cases from occurring in the country.

“Thank you for your good health, with nobody having fallen victim to the malignant virus,” Kim said.

Despite claiming to have recorded not a single case, and in September declaring that the situation is “safe and under control,” various reports from inside North Korea have indicated that the country has been hit hard by the pandemic. Although no official data is provided, American military sources indicated this year that the pandemic had killed at least 100 soldiers by the end of March, a figure only likely to have risen since.

North Korea borders the origin nation of the virus, China, as well as Russia and South Korea, which have both experienced significant outbreaks. Its western border with China is often considered its most porous, as reports for years have indicated illegal trade between the two countries occurs regularly along the Yalu River.

The tightening of restrictions also comes less than two weeks after Kim introduced an indoor ban on smoking, despite reportedly being a chain smoker himself.

Sunday’s meeting gave Kim the chance to condemn various “non-socialist practices in educational organizations and in society.” These allegedly include the party committee of Pyongyang University of Medicine, which he accused of committing “a serious crime” while also slamming the party’s central committee for its “irresponsibility and extreme dereliction of duty.” He did not provide any details.

“The enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau emphasized the need to awaken the Party organizations at all levels once again and wage a fierce Party-wide struggle to root out practices against the Party,” added KCNA, as well as the need to “upgrade the law enforcement so as to make sure that beautiful socialist traits are maintained in the overall socio-political, economic, and moral life.”

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