North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered the city of Kaesong to be locked down.(Korean Central News Agency via AP, file)ShareFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppPrint contentPrint with images and other mediaPrint text onlyPrintCancelSouth Korea's military is investigating the identity of a person accused by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un of potentially bringing coronavirus into the country for the first time.Key points:South Korea's authorities are examining footage recorded by frontline surveillance equipmentNorth Korean media say the suspected virus patient was a runaway who fled to South Korea three years agoObservers say North Korea may be trying to deflect blame for the virusMr Kim placed the city of Kaesong, near the border with South Korea, under total lockdown on Friday after a defector to the North was found there with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, saying "the vicious virus" may have entered the country, state media reported on Sunday local time.If the person is officially declared a coronavirus patient, he or she would be North Korea's first confirmed case. The North has steadfastly said it has had no cases of the virus, a claim questioned by outside experts.Later on Sunday, South Korea's military said an investigation into who crossed the border into North Korea was being narrowed down.A military statement said authorities were examining footage recorded by frontline surveillance equipment, but it gave no further details. North Korean university students have their temperature checked as a precaution against coronavirus.(AP: Jon Chol Jin)The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the suspected virus patient was a runaway who fled to South Korea three years ago before illegally crossing the border into the North early last week.KCNA said respiratory secretion and blood tests showed the person "is suspected to have been infected" with the coronavirus. It said the person was placed under quarantine. People who had been in contact with the suspected patient and those who had been to Kaesong in the last five days were also quarantined.For the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic follow our live coverage.Some observers said South Korean authorities were likely trying to determine who had been missing since last week among North Korean refugees in South Korea, especially among those originally from Kaesong."Blaming an alleged return defector for bringing COVID-19 into the country is likely intended to shift blame for spread of the virus away from China and Pyongyang and on to Seoul," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul."This may also be a tactic for ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on [South Korea] and trying to further dissuade North Koreans from defecting to the South," he said. North Korea's coronavirus-free claim in doubtDescribing its anti-virus efforts as a "matter of national existence", North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned foreign tourists and mobilised health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms.But the Kaesong lockdown is the first known measure taken in a North Korean city to stem the pandemic.Foreign experts say a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea could cause dire consequences because of its fragile public healthcare infrastructure and chronic lack of medical supplies. They are also sceptical about North Korea's claim of having had no infections because the country shares a long, porous border with China, its biggest trading partner, where the world's first-known virus cases were reported in December.Kaesong, a city with an estimated population of 200,000, is located just north of the heavily fortified land border with South Korea. Read more about coronavirus:Want to know which masks work best? Check out this experimentWith all our lives changing due to corornavirus, you could be experiencing disenfranchised griefIt once hosted the Koreas' jointly run industrial complex, which has been shut since 2016 amid nuclear tensions.More than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea over the past 20 years to avoid poverty and political suppression, mostly via China. But it is highly unusual for North Korean refugees to return to their impoverished, authoritarian homeland by crossing the mine-strewn inter-Korean border.Last month, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong to protest a campaign by South Korean activists who have been sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.City locked down During an emergency Politburo meeting on Saturday, Mr Kim also declared a state of emergency in the Kaesong area and "clarified the determination of the Party Central Committee to shift from the state emergency anti-epidemic system to the maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert," KCNA said.It quoted Mr Kim as saying there was "a critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country". People have been wearing face masks in Pyongyang, North Korea.(AP: Cha Song Ho)Mr Kim said he took "the pre-emptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City and isolating each district and region from the other" on Friday afternoon after receiving the report, according to KCNA.The Politburo meeting also discussed the "loose guard performance" at the border area where the suspected patient crossed over to North Korea, KCNA said.It said Mr Kim and other leaders were briefed on the results of an intensive investigation of a military unit responsible for the border crossing and discussed administering "a severe punishment".Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreakDownload the ABC News app and subscribe to our range of news alerts for the latest on how the pandemic is impacting the worldAnalyst Cheong Seong-Chang, from the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said a thorough lockdown in Kaesong would make it difficult for a potential virus outbreak to spread beyond the city. But he said virus fears would engulf North Korean leaders."The anxiety and fears about COVID-19 spreading in the North Korean leadership would be much bigger than outsiders can roughly speculate because the country lacks test kits and has virtually no facilities to treat virus patients," Mr Cheong said. He said it was unlikely that the North's claim of the person crossing the border was false because it could not punish its own military unit with a fabricated announcement.North Korea is unlikely to resume dialogue and exchanges with South Korea until it is confident about containing a possible virus outbreak, he added.What you need to know about coronavirus:When and how to wear a face maskThe symptomsThe number of cases in AustraliaGlobal cases, deaths and testing ratesAP
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