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(LEAD) Foreign ministry vows all-out efforts to curb entry restrictions, minimize economic fallout from coronavirus

All News 14:05 March 03, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 3, 7-8)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry pledged Tuesday to make "across-the-board" diplomatic efforts to ease excessive entry restrictions against South Korean travelers and minimize the potential economic fallout from the new coronavirus.

In a written policy briefing for 2020 to President Moon Jae-in, the ministry also renewed its commitment to "reigniting" the momentum for dialogue among the two Koreas and the United States through a "virtuous" cycle of progress in inter-Korean ties as well as the relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Seoul will also push for high-level exchanges with Beijing as planned, including the trips to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the first half of this year and by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the latter half, barring unforeseen difficulties in halting the COVID-19 outbreaks.

"The ministry will push for across-the-board negotiations with foreign governments to ease their excessively restrictive entry restrictions against our citizens or curb new restrictions, and provide prompt on-the-ground consular support to quickly free our citizens from quarantine procedures," the ministry said in the briefing.

To minimize the virus outbreaks' negative impact on the country's economy, the ministry will strive harder to address issues involving Korean businesspeople or workers who have faced entry restrictions or difficulties getting work permits from foreign governments.

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, 87 countries and regions have imposed entry bans or quarantine measures against people from South Korea, which has so far reported 4,812 confirmed cases of the novel virus with 28 deaths.

To support around 1,200 citizens in quarantine in China, Vietnam and other countries, the ministry is considering dispatching "rapid response" teams from Seoul.

"But at issue is whether the teams will also be subject to the 14-day quarantine program," a senior Seoul official said. "We are checking whether the teams can be exempted or would inevitably face the quarantine procedures."

On the lackluster peace efforts with the North, the ministry said it would strive to build an international environment in which progress in inter-Korean relations could lead to the resumption of denuclearization talks between the two Koreas and between the U.S. and the North.

The ministry also said that it would seek to stably manage the security situation on the peninsula to set the mood for dialogue with the North. To that end, the ministry, in tandem with the international community, will communicate a message that calls on the North to refrain from provocations and accede to calls for talks.

On Monday, the North fired two projectiles from what is presumed to be a super-large multiple rocket launcher from its eastern coastal city of Wonsan into the East Sea -- the first such provocative move since it warned of "a new strategic weapon" early this year.

The ministry also said that this year, South Korea will push for "strategic and effective" summit diplomacy in what it calls a "two-top" approach in which the president focuses on the top level diplomacy with major countries while the prime minister engages with other key nations.

(LEAD) Foreign ministry vows all-out efforts to curb entry restrictions, minimize economic fallout from coronavirus - 1

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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