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(LEAD) FAO denies VOA report about doubting N. Korea's claims of no new coronavirus outbreak

All News 19:02 February 13, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with FAO's denial)

SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Thursday denied a Voice of America (VOA) report that the U.N. agency doubts North Korea's claim that there are no cases of the new coronavirus in the communist nation.

VOA carried the report earlier in the day (Korean time), citing Bir Mandal, deputy representative of the FAO Office in Pyongyang. But the FAO flatly rejected it hours later, saying that the report was "a result of a hacked FAO Email account in DPRK."

DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The hacked account was "used to send a false news report to VOA Korea Service," Allan Dow, an Asia-Pacific regional communication officer based in Bangkok, said in an email to Yonhap News Agency.

"The hack was noticed almost immediately by FAO yesterday and the account was closed," he said.

Dow also told Yonhap by phone that the report is based on a "result of malicious hacking."

"All I want to say is he did not voice doubt ... That's not true," the official said.

North Korea has repeatedly claimed that there have been no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in its country, but Pyongyang has intensified its preventive efforts, including tightening its borders with China and strengthening quarantines for people arriving from the neighboring country.

In the latest precautionary move, state media on Wednesday reported that the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) adopted an emergency measure to lengthen the quarantine period from 15 days to 30 days, much longer than the 14 days presumed to be the incubation period of the virus.

North Korea is known to have weak medical infrastructure, which experts worry could make the country more susceptible to such a highly contagious virus.



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