SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down the capital, Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against the coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers Friday.
Kim's government also ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke the United States because it is worried about President-elect Joe Biden's approach toward North Korea, lawmakers told reporters after attending a private briefing by the National Intelligence Service.
One of the lawmakers, Ha Tae-keung, quoted the intelligence service as saying Kim is displaying "excessive anger" and taking "irrational measures" over the pandemic and its economic impact.
Ha said the intelligence service told lawmakers that North Korea executed a high-profile money-changer in Pyongyang last month after holding the person responsible for a falling exchange rate. He quoted the service as saying that North Korea also executed a key official in August for violating government regulations restricting goods brought from abroad. The two people weren't identified.
North Korea has also banned fishing and salt production at sea to prevent seawater from being infected with the virus, the intelligence service told lawmakers.
There are few ways to independently confirm the reported fishing ban and other information given to the lawmakers. Ha didn't say whether the ban applied to all North Korean waters or whether it was still in effect.
North Korea recently placed Pyongyang and northern Jagang province under lockdown over virus concerns. Earlier this month, it imposed lockdown measures in other areas where officials found unauthorized goods and foreign currencies that were brought in, Ha cited the intelligence service as saying.
North Korea also made an unsuccessful hacking attempt on at least one South Korean pharmaceutical company that was trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the intelligence service said.
The agency has a mixed record in confirming developments in North Korea, one of the world's most secretive nations. The intelligence service said it couldn't immediately confirm the lawmakers' accounts.
North Korea has maintained that it hasn't found a single coronavirus case on its soil, a claim disputed by outside experts, although it says it is making all-out efforts to prevent the virus's spread. A major outbreak could have dire consequences because the North's health care system remains crippled and suffers from a chronic lack of medical supplies.
The pandemic forced North Korea to seal its border with China, its biggest trading partner and benefactor, in January. The closure, along with a series of natural disasters over the summer, dealt a heavy blow to the North's economy, which has been under punishing U.S.-led sanctions.
According to the intelligence service briefing, North Korea ordered overseas diplomatic missions not to provoke the United States, warning their ambassadors of consequences if their comments or acts cause any trouble in ties with Washington.
North Korea's government has remained silent over Biden's election victory over President Donald Trump, with whom Kim held three summits in 2018-19 over the North's nuclear arsenal. While the diplomacy eventually stalled, the meetings helped Kim and Trump build up personal ties and stop the crude insults and threats of destruction they had previously exchanged.
Lawmaker Kim Byung-kee cited the intelligence service as saying that North Korea is displaying anxiety as its ties with Trump become useless and it has to start from scratch.
Experts have been debating whether North Korea will resume major missile tests soon to try to get Biden's attention.