COVID-19 and North Korea Update #4

March 30, 2020

This is the fourth in a series of updates by NCNK Executive Director Keith Luse on what is known about the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic in North Korea. NCNK is continuing to monitor the situation through ongoing contact with a wide range of information sources on recent developments.  Our latest summary is below.


Is testing for COVID-19 underway in North Korea?

Yes, however the volume of testing and test results are unknown.

Is North Korea willing to accept humanitarian assistance from the international community?


Are humanitarian supplies now making their way into North Korea?

Yes. Although limited in scope due to the ongoing active quarantine requirements in China and North Korea, a delivery protocol has been established via the Dandong-Sinuiju point of entry which allows for twice-daily delivery of containers.

Are supplies from US humanitarian NGOs entering North Korea at the present time?

US-provided humanitarian assistance may slowly make its way into North Korea, delayed in part by the container backlog at Dandong. However, there appears to be some reluctance on the part of North Korea toward receiving American COVID-19 assistance.

Is Dandong-Sinuiju the only access to the North for humanitarian supplies?

No. The maritime route from Dalian to Nampo resumed last week.  Initial shipments included some UN humanitarian supplies.

Are United Nations' officials in Pyongyang able to interact with North Korean counterparts?


What actions are being taken by the UN outside of the Peninsula to address the COVID-19 situation in the North?

UN OCHA launched a Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.  The main body includes cross-cutting issues and the annexes have selected country pages; the DPRK is on page 79.  The plan was launched March 25 by the Secretary-General, with Dr. Tedros (WHO), Henrietta Fore (UNICEF) and Mark Lowcock (OCHA).  It initially calls for USD 2.01 billion, mostly for agencies and will be updated monthly.  The DPRK Humanitarian Country team is looking into the needs and specific asks required.

In addition, in the Secretary-General's letter to the G20; in the High Commissioner for Human Rights statement and in a joint letter by seven countries to the UN, there were calls to ease sanctions including sectoral, to help the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Has there been recent action by the UN 1718 Sanctions Committee regarding exemption requests?

Yes, late last week the Committee published approval of an exemption to the Swiss Humanitarian Aid for COVID-19 related supplies. It cleared the Committee review process in two days.