For nearly the entirety of 2020, the world has been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While the U.S. is still dealing with the health crisis, one specific country claims that it is currently COVID-19 free. During a celebration for the 75th anniversary of the Worker's Party, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that the country is free of COVID-19 cases. As CNN noted, experts were previously skeptical about how North Korea could have escaped the effects of the pandemic, especially since the illness has hit neighbor country China incredibly hard.
Jong-un told a large, maskless crowd in Pyongyang that he was thankful that there wasn't a single case of the coronavirus in the entire country. During his speech, the leader seemingly choked up as he discussed the various hardships that North Korea has had to navigate, such as ones related to typhoon season and, of course, COVID-19. He said that he hopes that South Korea can overcome the coronavirus pandemic and that the two countries can eventually "hold hands together." CNN noted that Jong-un entered the parade without a mask and kissed children who gave him flowers. There did not appear to be any social distancing in the crowd, who did not appear to be wearing masks either.
It should be noted that experts can not be sure about the validity of Jong-un's claims. Those experts previously expressed skepticism over the notion that North Korea could have escaped the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic given its close proximity to China, which is where the first reported cases of the illness were. They noted that it's possible that the country has not identified some cases due to a lack of testing. Additionally, it's likely that they were successfully able to discover small clusters of cases and that they are not reporting them.
In July, the Official Korean Central News Agency reported that Jong-un convened an emergency meeting to address the coronavirus pandemic. He reportedly sought to implement a "maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert," and added that "the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country." Kim and other North Korean leaders reportedly took pre-emptive measures after the border city of Kaesong had a COVID-19 scare. At the time, North Korea did not officially recognize any cases of COVID-19 within the country.