Seoul Offers N.Korea Help with Foot-and-Mouth Epidemic

South Korea on Monday decided to offer North Korea vaccine and medical equipment to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Pyongyang area.

A Unification Ministry official said Seoul proposed a meeting between quarantine officials from both sides.

The proposal was made in a telephone message from the commissioner of the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency to his North Korean counterpart.

"The situation in the North is serious," the official said. "If the North sends a reply, we'll try to get a rough picture in the talks and then make a concrete plan on how to help."

"This purely humanitarian offer has nothing to do with the reunions" of families separated by the Korean War, he added.

Cross-border relations are likely to improve with the offer. On Feb. 19, the North reported the outbreak to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The [North] Korean Central News Agency last Friday reported the disease, which broke out at a pig farm in Pyongyang's Sadong district on Jan. 8, has spread to 17 areas in Pyongyang and North Hwanghae Province. More than 3,200 pigs are infected, of which some 360 have died of it and 2,900 have been culled.

The regime has declared an emergency quarantine across the country but failed to contain the disease due to the lack of vaccine, diagnostic equipment and disinfectant.

This is the first foot-and-mouth outbreak there since April 2011. In 2007 Seoul helped the North with disinfectant and other equipment, worth W2.6 billion (US$1=W1,073) as well as technicians.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 25, 2014 09:22 KST