May 09, 2020
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About this Deal
Late last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un—who since mid-April had been rumored to be either dead, brain-dead, or otherwise incapacitated—made a return to the public eye (surprise!) when he appeared at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new fertilizer plant. His reemergence has put concerns about his health on the backburner (for now), which means North Korean observers can go back to worrying about how coronavirus is impacting North Korea.
Why It Matters:
Coronavirus is the kind of multidimensional crisis that hits a country’s economy, political stability, and relations with other countries all at the same time. And for a country like North Korea, such a triple-punch could lead Kim to lash out internationally (think: missile tests, brash rhetoric, cyberattacks, etc…), the last thing the world needs during a pandemic.
For the record, North Korea claims that there are no coronavirus cases in the country. Obviously, that should be taken with a whole mountain of salt (North Korea’s neighbor China says hi). But if worries about North Korea’s handling of the worst pandemic the world has seen in over a century weren’t enough, it also comes on the heels of a poor harvest season. The last time North Korea had widespread famine in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people starved to death (at least).