According to the Daily NK, a South Korean news outlet, 180 North Korean soldiers were killed by the virus in the months of January and February, and another 3,700 have been quarantined.
The Daily NK quoted a source, allegedly from North Korea’s military, who on March 6 cited figures from a report that detailed the impact of the virus on North Korea’s soldiers. The Epoch Times has not been able to independently verify the reports.
The North Korean soldiers who reportedly died were stationed predominantly on or around the Sino-North Korean border in North Pyongan, Chagang, Ryanggang, and North Hamgyong provinces, according to the news outlet.
The report was sent to the regime’s military leaders, and the source claimed there are “just too many bodies” that the North Korean military is struggling to cremate the soldiers killed by the disease.
“I haven’t heard of corpses being cremated in military hospitals,” the source allegedly said. “The military leadership likely believes that suddenly asking the hospitals to cremate all the bodies would create a big headache for medical staff.”
North Korea has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19. However, experts have become increasingly concerned that Pyongyang is covering-up cases and deaths.
According to reports, North Korea last week placed at least 7,000 people under quarantine in an attempt to prevent coronavirus spread in the country.
It has also put in place “high-intensity” measures that the country’s state media says are to prevent coronavirus infections.
These measures include a ban on foreign tourists, reinforced border checks, and the suspension of most air and rail travel within and out of the country. State media outlet KCNA also said that a month-long quarantine period had been imposed on people showing symptoms of the virus.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week sent South Korean President Moon Jae-in a personal letter expressing his condolences over the coronavirus outbreak, marking Kim’s first public exchange with his counterpart in more than four months. It wasn’t immediately clear if Kim sent the letter to improve strained ties with South Korea amid a deadlock in broader nuclear diplomacy with the United States.
Kim in his letter expressed concern over Moon’s health and extended a “message of comfort to the South Korean people” amid the escalating novel coronavirus outbreak in South Korea.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 35 new coronavirus cases in South Korea on Tuesday, down from a peak of 909 on Feb. 29. The new figures brought the national tally to 7,513, while the death toll rose by three to 54.
Reuters contributed to this report.