Kim Jong Un Fell 'Seriously' Sick With COVID; North Korea Blames South

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un fell ill with a "high fever" during the country's battle against COVID, his sister has revealed.

In a speech, Kim Yo Jong gave the first indication that her brother was personally affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The leader was "severely ill from high fever," his sister said, but could not "lie down even for a second while thinking only of his responsibility for the people," she told a cheering crowd in Pyongyang on Wednesday, according to state media.

Kim Yo Jong blamed South Korea for spreading COVID into the North via anti-Pyongyang leaflets. The North has recorded nearly 4.8 million fever cases since the outbreak was first was disclosed on May 12, but had reported only 74 deaths as of late July.

North Korea's Kim Jung Un's COVID Infection
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears on a television screen at Seoul Railway Station on June 05, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea. Kim fell "seriously ill" with fever during the North's COVID outbreak, his sister revealed on August 10. Getty Images/Chung Sung-Jun

Kim Jong Un himself declared a "shining victory" over the COVID outbreak.

"The long-suffered quarantine war is finally over and today, we are able to solemnly declare victory," Kim Jong Un said, according to analysis by Pyongyang watchers NK News. "The death toll of just 74 people in this period is extremely low and can be considered the greatest miracle in the world health community."

The North's supreme leader said "not a single vaccine" was used in the country, despite WHO-backed global vaccine alliance GAVI previously reporting Pyongyang's use of some Chinese-made shots. Reports suggested Kim had rejected further donations from Beijing and Seoul.

Kim Jong Un locked down the North's borders at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020. At Wednesday's event, he admitted that the measures had affected families' livelihoods, but insisted the country's overall economy was unharmed.

Kim Jong Un ran a public health campaign "unprecedented in history and his great exploits will be go down for all ages along with the history of the country," the Korean Central News Agency quoted the North's Defense Minister Ri Yong Gil as saying in a speech.

Ri Song Hak, vice premier, said the North Korean leader managed to "completely defuse the public health crisis and lay a powerful foundation for durably ensuring the safety of the people's life" during the country's "most serious emergency," per KCNA.

In May, observers questioned the North's claim that the outbreak was its first in over two years. They now also question Pyongyang's reported death toll.

Kim Yo Jong, meanwhile, pointed the finger at the "little South Korean authorities" in Seoul, and threatened to retaliate.

"[It] is a matter of grave concern that the disgusting ones in South Korea stage a farce of scattering leaflets, bank notes, awful booklets and things over our territory," KCNA quoted Kim Yo Jong as saying.

"It is the universally accepted opinion of the international community that it is necessary to thoroughly disinfect the surface of objects as the malignant virus spreads via objects," she said. "It is an undeniable fact that a single person or a single object infected with the highly contagious virus may infect many other people in a moment and cause a grave health crisis."

"From this scientific view, we come to draw a conclusion that we can no longer overlook the uninterrupted influx of rubbish from South Korea," Kim Yo Jong said. "This is just an unethical crime."

The South's Unification Ministry on Thursday accused the North of a "groundless claim," AFP reported, and regretted Pyongyang's "rude and threatening remarks."

Analysts believe Kim Jong Un's declaration of victory over the virus could pave the way for the North's resumption of nuclear tests.