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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 3)

All News 07:05 June 03, 2019

Alert over swine fever
Inter-Korean collaboration needed to prevent spread of virus

The farming and health authorities are on high alert over the possible spread of African swine fever because of an outbreak of the highly contagious disease in North Korea. They are stepping up quarantine measures to guard against any spread of the virus in areas bordering the North.

It is more than necessary for both Koreas to make joint efforts to prevent any further spread in the North, and to keep the disease out of the South. Regrettably, such efforts are not available because of stalled inter-Korean ties following the collapse of a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February.

During working-level talks held last November, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to share information on transmittable diseases to block their spread across the border. However, the precarious geopolitical situation is getting in the way of implementing the agreement.

We urge the North to resume contact with the South to work together closely to fight against the swine fever. This effort should be taken as it is not a political matter, but a humanitarian and health-related one.

On Thursday, North Korea reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that it had confirmed the swine fever outbreak at a farm in the northern Chagang Province bordering China. Seventy-seven of the farm's 99 pigs died from the virus and the rest were culled.

Seoul officials are worried that the virus could move to the South through wild pigs that may cross the inter-Korean border. It is urgent to help the North keep the disease in check. But there is no way to do that as long as the Kim regime refuses to accept the South's offers of assistance.

The virus is spreading rapidly throughout Asia after it broke out in Italy and two other European countries in 2018, in addition to 22 African states. It hit China last August, Mongolia in January, Vietnam in February, Cambodia in April and Hong Kong in May.

Currently there is no vaccine or cure for swine fever. That's why quarantine efforts are critical to stem the spread of the virus whose fatality rate is almost 100 percent. Although the disease causes no harm to humans, the epidemic could cause serious damage to pig farmers.

The outbreak may aggravate the food shortage the North is undergoing. The Moon Jae-in administration needs to make more efforts to resume dialogue with the North to find ways to help stave off the virus sooner rather than later.

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