The North Korean leader, and multiple other “high-ranking officials”, has reportedly been vaccinated within the past couple of weeks. It comes just days after North Korean state media reported that the country had introduced tougher measures than before to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The secretive nation has not yet reported any positive cases, though earlier this year it did lock down the entire city of Kaesong over fears a case may have arisen there.
Now, national security news outlet 1945 has said several members of the North’s Government have received a Chinese Covid-19 jab, citing two Japanese intelligence officials.
It is unclear which vaccine North Korea has received, however, or how many doses.
China has several potential vaccines in the works. The chair of Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm Group has claimed almost 1 million people in China have already received its vaccine.
China launched an emergency vaccine programme in July this year, but Beijing has not revealed much about it. However, it is thought safety and efficacy is yet to be confirmed.
In any case, the delivery of the vaccine to Kim Jong-un’s family and top North Korean officials comes amid stark economic challenges faced by the nation.
Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute public policy think tank in the US, told 1945 that North Korea’s population is “a tiny drop” compared to China.
He added: “Xi’s government could take care of the entire country if it desires.
“A decision to do so also would affirm a new closeness to the bilateral relationship.”
Last week, it was reported that suspected North Korean hackers tried to access the IT systems of AstraZeneca – the British pharmaceutical firm involved in the production of the UK’s upcoming coronavirus vaccine, alongside Oxford University.
According to Reuters, which cited two people close to the matter, the hackers attempted to disguise themselves as job recruiters online.
They used social media platforms such as WhatsApp and LinkedIn and tried to reach out to AstraZeneca staff.
Documents attached to the job invites were infected with a computer virus which would grant the hackers access to AstraZeneca computers.
However, it is thought that the hacking attempts were not successful.
The sources claimed the way in which the hacking attempts were carried out suggested they were linked to other malicious attempts which US investigators have blamed on North Korea.
At the time of writing, Covid-19 has killed 1,460,477 people worldwide and there have been a total of 62,757,540 cases, according to European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention data.