Policy

North Korea Reacts to Ebola Pretty Much Exactly the Way You'd Expect North Korea to React to Ebola

Pyongyang's paranoia finds a new target.

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Kim Jong-Il is secure in his grave.
Paramount

Around 30 countries have responded to the Ebola outbreak with travel bans of one kind or another. But one state stands out for the intensity of its response, clamping down on people's movements in ways that might strike even Peter King as excessive.

It's North Korea, of course. The place is located nowhere near the outbreak, and it isn't exactly a destination point for West African tourists, but what is probably the world's most paranoid and xenophobic regime isn't taking any chances. The Washington Post's Anna Fifield reports:

North Korea abruptly told the handful of travel companies bringing western tourists into the country that all tours would be indefinitely suspended. Most have had all their November tours canceled and are waiting to hear about December. The ban also extends to Chinese tourists, who make up the bulk of visitors to Pyongyang, by far.

Then on Thursday, North Korea announced all foreigners—including diplomats, and regardless of where they're coming—arriving in the country will be quarantined for 21 days. That's more than three times the length of the average tour….

But it's not just foreigners who are considered potential carriers of the deadly virus….People wanting to go to Pyongyang on personal business, such as for family events, are being denied entry to the capital, while state officials now have to go through a cumbersome process involving getting an epidemiological certificate from the provincial quarantine office, the site reported.

When diplomats from countries as close as Japan enter the country, they are greeted by Koreans in hazmat suits. The government is also putting new limits on its subjects' already severely curtailed ability to travel abroad. Fifield notes that a "group that had been set to travel to seminars in Singapore last week was abruptly grounded," Singapore presumably being too close to Sierra Leone for Pyongyang's taste.

And then there are images like this, which cross the line separating "public health precaution" from "elaborate purification ritual":

Pass the Juche 'pon the left hand side.

Juche in action, I suppose. To read the rest of Fifield's report, go here.