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Coronavirus

North Korea lifts Kaesong lockdown after coronavirus scare

Kim replaces economic official as two others promoted to Politburo committee

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an Aug. 13 Politburo meeting in Pyongyang. (Korean Central News Agency photo provided by the Korea News Service)

SEOUL -- North Korea ended a three-week lockdown in the city of Kaesong that was sparked by a possible coronavirus case from outside the country, state media reported Friday.

The decision came Thursday at a Politburo meeting attended by leader Kim Jong Un, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which also reported a leadership shakeup at the gathering.

Kaesong was locked down on July 24 after a former defector suspected of carrying the coronavirus swam to the border city from South Korea. Kim said Thursday that the decision to lift the lockdown followed "scientific verification" that the quarantine had been maintained and the situation was stable.

Pyongyang is believed to still report zero coronavirus cases nationally.

Politburo members also received a report on massive flooding that has destroyed or inundated 16,680 households and damaged 390 sq. km of agricultural land.

With the coronavirus spreading worldwide, North Korea will not accept outside aid, Kim said. The country will further tighten the closure of its borders and carry out strict infection prevention measures, he said.

The meeting brought a political reshuffle as Premier Kim Jae Ryong, who handles economic policy, was replaced by Kim Tok Hun. Kim Tok Hun and Ri Pyong Chol, head of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development program, were elected to the Standing Committee of the Politburo, expanding it to five members.

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