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Seoul could offer vaccine, medicine if Pyongyang requests

Seoul could offer vaccine, medicine if Pyongyang requests

Posted May. 14, 2022 07:32,   

Updated May. 14, 2022 07:32


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said South Korea could offer vaccines and medicine if North Korea requests in connection with Covid-19 outbreaks in the North. Irrespective of escalating provocations by Pyongyang prior to President Yoon’s inauguration, Seoul has thus offered to provide humanitarian assistance.

“President Yoon is committed to provide medicine including vaccines against Covid-19 to North Koreans,“ presidential spokeswoman Kang In-sun said in a written media briefing on Friday. “We will consult with Pyongyang about specific ways to provide aid.”

Some watchers say there could signs of thawing in contentious inter-Korean relations through cooperation in disease quarantine, but the presidential office is rather cautious about actual measures to be taken. “There has been no communication from North Korea,” a senior official at the presidential office said. “We will wait and see while examining what we can in collaboration with the international community. If Pyongyang requests for help, we are prepared to have sincere discussions.”

Pyongyang has been intensifying its internal quarantine efforts by disclosing the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, which is a rare move. “A fever of unknown cause has spread explosively across the country since late April. More than 350,000 people with fever have been reported in a short period of time, and 18,000 people have come down with fever within just one day on May 12,” the North’s state-run Rodong Sinmun daily said.

It is the first time that the North has admitted facts about confirmed Covid-19 cases and disclosed specific numbers. The South Korean government is also reportedly judging that the transmission of Covid-19 in North Korea is grave. “There are loopholes in the quarantine system,” said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who had been seen wearing mask at public events. He also instructed his government to lock down all provinces, cities and counties across the country, as he was visiting the National Emergency Quarantine Command on Thursday.

Ji-Sun Choi aurinko@donga.com