As scientists from all over the globe are working on the development of a viable vaccine for the COVID-19, North Korea has also joined the race to develop a cure, though the secretive country, ruled by Kim Jong Un, has not yet claimed to have any Coronavirus cases.
The world has no idea about how many people have died or infected by the virus in North Korea, as no official announcement has been made. But as per the country's science research council, North Korea was developing a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2.
Yonhap News agency reported that Mirae, a website run by North Korea's State Commission of Science and Technology, claimed on Saturday, July 18 that their scientists are currently conducting clinical trials to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.
It was also claimed that a medical biology institute under North Korea's Academy of Medical Science is using angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to develop an effective Coronavirus vaccine. The country has confirmed the immunogenicity and safety of its vaccine candidate through animal tests. The clinical trials have reportedly started in July.
North Korea also claimed that its scientists are in discussions on plans to conduct the 'third phase' of a clinical study. As per the report, the bioengineering branch of the State Academy of Sciences is also conducting research for the development of the novel Coronavirus vaccine. But many experts said that they are uncertain about North Korea's recent claims on vaccine development, due to its financial and medical situation.
Coronavirus in North Korea
Officially, in North Korea, there is no case of Coronavirus but outsiders remain skeptical, especially since the country borders with China, where COVID-19 originated in 2019.
A report by NK News, published earlier this month claimed that a source, who still has some contact with those in her hometown, Hyesan—a North Korean city—said that she came across one video reporting that dozens of the 974 army unit, who are tasked with the personal defense of Kim Jong Un, were infected with the virus, while another video claimed that the dictator had ordered those who had been infected through contact with Chinese people be secretly shot.
Later, when she contacted a known person from her hometown, the man said there were no virus cases but later said, "You know that if this call goes on for too long it could be tapped," and assured the woman that her family is safe.
In April, reports claimed that an unnamed North Korean defector was shot by Chinese guards while attempting to cross the Tumen River which divides North Korea from China. When the man was taken to a hospital after he was injured by the gunshot, he tested positive for the Coronavirus. This incident provides strong evidence suggesting that North Korea is suffering from a Coronavirus outbreak but still hiding the facts.
Just a few weeks ago reports claimed that North Korea's education authorities have taken the unprecedented step of locking the doors to school classrooms, even though as per Kim Jong Un's regime, the country has zero COVID-19 cases. NK News reported that the move came after the Politburo meeting where Kim Jong Un ordered that the Coronavirus measures nationwide would need to be "re-examined."