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(LEAD) S. Korea to provide 200,000 doses of Tamiflu to N. Korea

All Headlines 11:41 January 08, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 5, 8)

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea decided Tuesday to provide North Korea with about 200,000 doses of Tamiflu antiviral medication and other medical materials later this week, the unification ministry said.

The Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Council made the decision and set aside about 3.56 billion won (US$3.2 million) for the project, the ministry said.

The council, made up of government officials and civilian experts, is tasked with reviewing important policies and decisions related to inter-Korean exchange and cooperation projects.

"The government expects the drugs will improve the health and medical conditions of North Korean citizens and prevent the spread of influenza that could occur in the process of personnel exchanges between the Koreas, thereby contributing to the health of citizens in both the South and the North," the ministry said.

The drugs will be delivered to the North on Friday through a land route on the western inter-Korean border, though the schedule is subject to change. Around 10 government officials will visit the North's border town of Kaesong to hand over the drugs.

Along with the drugs, they will deliver some 50,000 early medical detection kits to the North, which were donated by a private entity, a ministry official said.

In December, South Korea announced a plan to provide Tamiflu and early medical detection kits to North Korea. Their leaders agreed in September to closely cooperate in fighting the spread of infectious diseases.

The aid provision plan was drawn up in line with possible demand for such drugs based on information that about 150,000 North Korean people were confirmed to have been infected with influenza from late 2017 to early 2018.

The ministry official said that it is not considering providing additional antiviral drugs to the North "at this moment."

Seoul recently discussed the drug provision plan with the United States through a joint working group session on North Korea to make sure the assistance doesn't violate sanctions.

In 2009, Seoul provided around 400,000 doses of Tamiflu and 100,000 doses of Relenza antiviral drugs to North Korea through a land route across their western border.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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