Experts: Report on Kim a Sign That Virus Is Roiling N. Korea

Analyst says leader, other North Korean elites have received COVID-19 vaccine from China
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2020 10:44 AM CST
Kim Jong Un Nabs a Vaccine: Report
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen attending a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

His country's attempts to hack pharmaceutical companies apparently failed, but Kim Jong Un got a coronavirus vaccine anyway. That's according to US analyst Harry Kazianis, who reports that the North Korean leader, his family members, and several senior government officials were vaccinated "within the last two to three weeks" with a drug candidate provided by the Chinese government, per Reuters. Writing at 19FortyFive, the senior director of Korean studies for the think tank Center for the National Interest cites Japanese intelligence, noting it's unclear which company produced the vaccine candidate or whether it was proven safe. Chinese officials say five vaccine candidates are undergoing phase 3 trials, per Business Insider. And though none have announced results, China National Pharmaceutical Group claims its candidate has been given to almost 1 million people.

An infectious disease expert who defected from North Korea doubts Kazianis' information, claiming Kim wouldn't take such a risk, per Reuters. But others suggest this is the latest sign the coronavirus is wreaking havoc in the North. Recent data from China's customs administration, showing a 99% drop in exports to North Korea from September to October, suggests the North is willing to prevent the spread of the virus "even if it means risking the country's food and fuel supply," per CNN. Business Insider reports Kim may be at greater risk for the virus as he's obese and a smoker. Last week, South Korea's National Intelligence Service said it had blocked an attempt by the North to hack its vaccine producers. Weeks earlier, Microsoft reported that two North Korean hacking groups had tried to hack into a network of vaccine developers around the world. (More Kim Jong Un stories.)

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