North Korea’s Criminal Sanctions to Control Infectious Diseases: Changes in the Age of Covid-19


  • Dae Un Hong Harvard University School of Law 1563 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA Author


North Korea, Kim Jong-un, the Law on the Prevention of Infectious Diseases, Emergency Law on the Prevention of Epidemics, Martial Law


Information on the Covid-19 situation in North Korea and the country’s policy response to the pandemic has been fragmented and incomplete. To better understand North Korea’s Covid-19-related policies, this article assesses the legal measures that have been implemented by this isolated, totalitarian country to counter the pandemic, including the Emergency Law on the Prevention of Epidemics (ELPE), which was enacted in August 2020. Compared to related laws prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, North Korea’s legal measures implemented in the face of the current pandemic have distinct characteristics. The measures, which appear to supersede other laws, prescribe draconian punishments for violations and expedite criminal sanction. This article concludes that stringent measures have been implemented in North Korea to prevent the spread of Covid-19, to protect Kim Jong-un, and to reinforce the regime’s stability. These measures are likely to be repeated in future epidemics, as they have achieved the status of law.