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Panmunjom tours to be suspended again over coronavirus concerns

All News 11:11 December 13, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- Tours to the truce village of Panmunjom will be suspended again this week due to coronavirus concerns, the unification ministry said Sunday, just about a month after the program resumed following a yearlong suspension over worries about African swine fever.

The ministry made the announcement to suspend the program on Tuesday as South Korea's single-day coronavirus cases broke the 1,000-mark for the first time since the country saw its first COVID-19 case in January.

"We have decided to temporarily suspend the Panmunjom tours starting from Dec. 15 as part of the toughened measures against COVID-19," the ministry said in a press release. "We have also consulted with the U.N. Command."

The U.N. Command controls access to the Demilitarized Zone, including Panmunjom.

The ministry said it will resume the tours when the COVID-19 restrictions ease.

The ministry had earlier said it would consider suspending the tours when the government adopts the highest Level 3 social distancing scheme.

South Korea launched a Level 2.5 social distancing scheme, the second-highest level under a five-tier system, earlier this week, but it has failed to slow the virus so far.

The Panmunjom tours resumed earlier last month after more than a year of suspension due to the outbreak of African swine fever. The tours take visitors to the Joint Security Area (JSA) and other sites inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

In the file photo taken on April 19, 2018, South Korean and U.S. soldiers stand guard at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, ahead of the historic inter-Korean summit talks at the village on April 27. (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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