Despite word of a five-day lockdown in Pyongyang, commercial satellite imagery from January 27 indicates practice continues at North Korea’s Mirim Parade Training Ground for an upcoming military parade. However, there is no current activity at Kim Il Sung Square in central Pyongyang.
Mirim Parade Training Ground
In the image, there are several hundred military trucks on the parade ground. No specialized heavy vehicles are visible in the secure vehicle storage area.
Figure 1. Military trucks and troop formations on the parade ground on January 27, 2023.
Figure 2. No specialized heavy vehicles visible in the secure vehicle storage area on January 27, 2023.
Kim Il Sung Square
Across the Taedong River in central Pyongyang, Kim Il Sung Square is quiet. Imagery from January 21 showed thousands of people in the square also engaged in practice for the parade.
Neighboring streets are now quiet, and there are no buses at the normally busy bus stop near the No. 1 Department Store. Some vehicles are visible on the roads, but the city activity does appear to be less than normal.
Figure 3. No activity in Kim Il Sung Square on imagery from January 27, 2023.
Potential Lockdown in Pyongyang
On Wednesday, NK News reported that a five-day lockdown had begun in Pyongyang in response to rising cases of a “respiratory illness.” The website quoted a North Korean government notice that was posted in the capital.
The notice did not specify the illness or mention COVID-19, according to the report. North Korea was one of the first countries in the world to shut its borders at the onset of the pandemic and claimed to have escaped the virus until May last year when it reported an outbreak.
That outbreak went on to sicken 4.7 million North Koreans but caused only 74 deaths, according to government figures. Only a handful of those cases were confirmed as COVID-19 due to lack of testing capability, but health experts said the rapid rise in cases matched only COVID-19. As such, it is widely believed the government understated the number of deaths.