North Korea Braces Along With Seoul as Typhoon Khanun Nears

(Bloomberg) — Typhoon Khanun made landfall in the southern part of South Korea early Thursday, heading on a path that could bring lashing winds and torrential rains to Seoul and then large parts of North Korea.

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The storm is expected to hit South Korea’s capital, home to about half the country’s population, by late Thursday. It’s packing maximum sustained winds of 86 kilometers (53 miles) per hour, weakening from 104 kph earlier. Still, the storm is forecast to dump as much as 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain per hour in some parts of the country, the Korea Meteorological Administration said.

The administration has issued typhoon warnings to the entire country. The storm is forecast to travel toward North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, by early Friday. The weather bureau said it has never seen a storm that cuts through the interior and crosses into North Korea.

“With the storm moving slowly northward, the impact will last longer, unleashing lots of rain and wind,” Park Jung Min, a forecaster at the administration, told reporters.

The country’s major companies, including Korea Electric Power Corp. and Posco Holdings Inc., said they are taking precautions for the storm’s arrival. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., the state-run operator of the nation’s reactors, said it has inspected its facilities and deployed staff to respond to the typhoon.

North Korea has been telling its people to get ready for the typhoon, with its biggest newspaper saying all ruling party organs “should wage a dynamic struggle to minimize the damage.”

The storm is threatening to wipe out antiquated infrastructure and destroy farmland in the impoverished country that battles chronic food shortages. Natural disasters provide rare domestic challenges for leader Kim Jong Un, whose decision to close borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic caused international aid agencies that once provided food for millions of North Koreans to suspend their operations.

The state’s propaganda apparatus tries to depict Kim as doing all he can to prepare his people for a typhoon, looking to deflect any blame on local officials for not doing enough to heed the warnings of the leader.

But the typhoon could deal a blow to North Korea’s economy that is just starting to turn the corner from the pandemic and is projected by Fitch Solutions to grow for the first time after two full years of contraction.

Widespread flooding could also derail any possible provocations timed to coincide with joint US-South Korean military drills this month and a summit on Aug. 18 among the leaders of Japan, South Korea and the US.

Read More: Kim Jong Un Reviews Attack Plans Before South Korea-US Drills

The typhoon has already snarled transport in the region. More than 440 flights were canceled at major airports in South Korea on Wednesday, while more than 80 flights have been dropped as of 2 p.m. local time Thursday, according to the tracking service. Korea Railroad Corp. suspended some train service in southern and eastern coastal areas on Thursday, it said in a statement.

South Korea has been facing extreme weather in recent months, from flooding to scorching heat. Khanun comes less than a year after the country was battered by Super Typhoon Hinnamnor, which killed more than 10 people and disrupted both power supplies and major industries.

–With assistance from Jon Herskovitz.

(Updates with details on North Korea beginning with sixth paragraph.)

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