SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has denied local news reports that it has provided masks to North Korea to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
A local TV station carried the report with video footage showing a medical worker in North Korea wearing a dental mask with the logo of a South Korean brand. The report sparked speculation that the government may have delivered South Korean masks to the North.
"The government has not provided any masks to North Korea regarding the coronavirus situation, and no nongovernmental organization from South Korea has applied for the delivery of masks to assist the North," Yoh Sang-key, the unification ministry's spokesperson, said in a press briefing.
The spokesperson said the government expresses regret over some media outlets that have reported distorted information without checking basic facts. He also warned the government will take corresponding legal action against the behavior of generating and spreading fake news.
An official at the unification ministry pointed to the possibility that the mask could have entered the country through China before the global spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"A South Korean product spotted at the North's jangmadang is nothing new," he said, referring to the country's local markets.
North Korea has not reported any outbreaks of COVID-19, a disease caused by the virus, but the country has taken various preventive efforts, including shutting down its border with China, where the virus originated, and toughening quarantine procedures for foreigners.
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