Jean H. Lee

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Kim Jong-un anunció un confinamiento nacional por un brote de covid el 12 de mayo. Era la primera vez que aparecía en televisión con mascarilla. Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Durante dos años, la aislada Corea del Norte alegó haber tenido éxito en mantener alejada a la covid, e incluso rechazó varias ofertas de vacunas, a las que calificó de innecesarias. El mes pasado, eso cambió.

En una serie de notas urgentes, los medios estatales de Corea del Norte anunciaron que una fiebre no especificada se estaba propagando “explosivamente”. La nación comenzó un confinamiento. Se han reportado más de cuatro millones de casos y decenas de muertes.

Es un escenario aterrador para una nación de 25 millones de personas, con problemas de desnutrición y sin esquemas de vacunación. Pero las malas noticias no salen de Corea del Norte sin alguna razón.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong-un appeared in a face mask on television for the first time on May 12 to announce a nationwide Covid lockdown. Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For more than two years, isolated North Korea claimed success in keeping out Covid and even rebuffed multiple offers of vaccines, calling them unnecessary. Last month, that changed.

In a series of urgent dispatches, North Korea’s state media announced that an unspecified fever was spreading “explosively”. The nation went into lockdown. More than four million cases have been reported, with dozens of deaths.

It’s a frightening prospect for an unvaccinated, undernourished nation of 25 million people. But bad news does not escape North Korea without a reason. Finally acknowledging a viral outbreak may be part of a strategy by its leader, Kim Jong-un, to re-engage with the outside world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong-un Is Just Getting Started

You could be forgiven for forgetting about North Korea, which went quiet for a stretch, locked in self-imposed isolation for two years during the pandemic while U.S. attention diverted to other crises (like the perilous fate of Ukraine).

Now there’s been a burst of ballistic missile tests in the new year: seven in January alone — an unprecedented pace for Pyongyang — and two in the past few weeks, prompting the U.N. Security Council to huddle for emergency meetings and drawing condemnation from some members.

If it seems as if North Korea wants us to sit up and pay attention — Don’t forget, we’re still building missiles and nuclear weapons!…  Seguir leyendo »

A gaggle of young North Koreans in neon chased me down the mountain on skis, expertly skidding to a stop at my feet as I sat on the slope tightening my bindings.

They peppered me with questions: “What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from? Are you married?”

It was 2014 and we were at Masikryong Ski Resort, a pet project of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The resort, a multimillion-dollar facility featuring luxury lodges and pristine slopes about 100 miles east of Pyongyang, had opened a few weeks earlier and I was there on a reporting trip — and to get a little snowboarding in.…  Seguir leyendo »

A photograph, provided by the North Korean government, of what was described as the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Credit Korean Central News Agency

A few years ago, when I was a reporter working in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, I went to visit a kindergarten. While I was there, I picked up a children’s book called “A Hedgehog Defeats the Tiger.” It was a tale, a North Korean told me, about a feisty little hedgehog that bests a much larger and fiendishly ravenous tiger using the only weapons at its disposal: the small but sharp quills on its back. The tiny but clever hedgehog pounces on the big nose of the blundering tiger, blinding him into submission.

“Do you know who the tiger is?” the North Korean asked me, an American, with a slight smirk.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s Palace Intrigue

After the 14th-century Korean ruler Taejo, founder of the Joseon dynasty, chose the youngest of his eight sons to succeed him, a spurned son killed the heir apparent and at least one of his other half brothers and eventually rose to the throne. Today, rumors of royal fratricide are again swirling, this time around the court of Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea.

Last week, Mr. Kim’s estranged older half brother, Kim Jong-nam, died in Malaysia, the apparent victim of a nerve-agent attack in the Kuala Lumpur airport. The Malaysian police named several suspects, including a North Korean diplomat. Many South Koreans, without needing proof, are calling it a political assassination directed by Kim Jong-un.…  Seguir leyendo »