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North Korea spotlights COVID-19 cases in South

North Korea spotlights COVID-19 cases in South
South Korea's cases of the new strain of coronavirus is being highlighted in North Korea state media. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- North Korea state media said Monday South Koreans are being discriminated against in the wake of the escalating number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

Pyongyang propaganda service Meari said in a statement the world is "rejecting South Korean nationals" as Seoul struggles to contain the virus. Confirmed cases in the South rose to 4,335 on Monday.

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North Korea has stayed quiet on the issue of the coronavirus outbreak following the declaration of a national emergency in January. The regime has claimed it has "zero" confirmed cases, but international experts have said the lack of adequate medical facilities mean the country is unprepared to deal with the virus.

On Monday, Meari said the number of deaths related to COVID-19 is on the rise in the South. As a result, the world is rejecting South Korean travelers, and the turning down of South Koreans at international borders is becoming "extreme," Meari claimed.

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North Korea state media did not say travel restrictions apply to all travelers originating from South Korea, regardless of nationality. Meari also said more than 62 countries have imposed bans or stepped up immigration restrictions as of Friday. The statement was not updated to reflect the latest data; more than 80 countries had some restrictions for travelers from South Korea by Monday.

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The propaganda service also suggested the South was being perceived as a dangerous place for foreigners, including exchange students. Meari claimed students are wearing gas masks, special clothing and protective goggles when venturing outside in South Korea.

South Korea's unification ministry could be dismissing the North's lack of willingness to engage with Seoul. On Monday, North Korea fired two short-range projectiles.

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Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Monday the two Koreas could realize cooperation at the border, Yonhap reported.

Tourism to North Korea, development of the Korean DMZ into a "peace zone" and the relinking of an inter-Korea rail are feasible, Kim Yeon-chul said, without providing evidence for the statement.

North Korea has rejected talks with the South. In January, the two sides agreed to close the inter-Korea liaison office in response to the outbreak.

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