North Korea brings aid supplies to border town under lockdown: state media

FILE PHOTO: Kaesong city is seen across the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating North Korea from South Korea in this picture taken from Dora observatory in Paju, 55 km (34 miles) north of Seoul, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea’s ruling party has delivered special aid packages of food and medical equipment to residents of Kaesong, near the border with the South, after imposing a lockdown there due to COVID-19 concerns, state media said on Sunday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency and imposed a lockdown on the small border town last month after a person, who defected to South Korea in 2017, returned to Kaesong across the highly fortified border showing coronavirus symptoms.

Pyongyang has not confirmed any coronavirus infections but has been taking strict quarantine measures and screening the town, while providing food, test kits and other medical equipment, according to state media.

State television on Sunday showed a train arriving at the Kaesong station and trucks delivering supplies to residents.

Separately, hundreds of people wearing masks and sitting apart from one another gathered at a party auditorium to thank authorities for the aid, with some breaking down in tears, footage showed.

The official KCNA news agency said the shipments arrived on Friday to help the residents cope with the lockdown, which “may lead to a deadly and destructive disaster.”

North Korea has not formally confirmed that the man in question tested positive for the virus. Seoul officials have said the 24-year-old returned to the North after facing a sexual assault investigation in the South.

South Korean health officials said there was no sign he was infected before he crossed the border, and at least two people who were in close contact with him have tested negative.

South Korea has confirmed 14,598 coronavirus cases and 305 COVID-19 deaths, the Korea Centers for Disease Prevention and Control said on Sunday.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Minwoo Park; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa