North Korea's Kim Jong Un may have already received an unapproved coronavirus vaccine
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received a Covid-19 vaccination from the Chinese government, Japanese intelligence sources told a Washington DC-based Korea expert.
- Kim's health has been the subject of rumours throughout his nine-year rule of the country.
- The 36-year-old dictator is a frequent smoker and obese, according to South Korean lawmakers, fuelling speculation that he would experience complications if he were to contract Covid-19.
- Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received a Covid-19 vaccination from the Chinese government, according to Japanese intelligence sources who discussed the matter with a Washington DC-based Korea expert.
Several other "high-ranking officials within the Kim family and leadership network" were believed to have received a vaccine from China sometime in the last two or three weeks, the unnamed intelligence sources told Harry Kazianis, senior director of the think tank Center for the National Interest.
Kim's health has often been the subject of rumours during his nine-year rule. His brief absence from public view earlier this year prompted speculation that he received heart surgery or contracted the coronavirus. The 36-year-old dictator is a frequent smoker and obese, according to South Korean lawmakers, fuelling speculation that he would experience medical complications if he were to contract Covid-19.
Chinese government officials claim they are working on phase three trials for a vaccine, the last step for final approval, for five vaccine candidates. One experimental vaccine produced by China-based pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm was reportedly administered to nearly a million people, none of whom reported "serious adverse" reactions, according to an article by the company that was published on social media and viewed by CNN.
North Korea's propaganda outlets have been quiet about infection rates there. While Pyongyang reports suspected cases, it has yet to confirm positive cases. As the pandemic surged throughout the world in the summer, North Korea claimed it had zero cases and that a lone defector from South Korea had brought the disease across its borders.
News of the virus prompted North Korea to impose strict lockdowns, even going as far as cutting off trade routes with China, its neighbor and closest partner. During a politburo meeting in August, Kim cited "the spread of the worldwide malignant virus" and announced the country would enact stricter measures near the border.
Bruce Klingner, a former chief of the CIA's branch in South Korea, previously told Insider that the situation in North Korea was exacerbated because of its lack of resources.
"It reflects the perfect storm of economic stresses that North Korea is suffering right now," Klingner said in August. "It was already suffering from being isolated from the world."
"There's that conflicting necessity to both shut down against Covid-19 but also to open up for aid or humanitarian and medical assistance," Klingner added. "So the regime, like other countries, are going to struggle with how to balance those two conflicting objectives."