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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The North Korean government has taken “emergency” anti-epidemic measures to prevent the spread of African swine fever (ASF), the country’s ruling party organ reported on Wednesday, though did not go into detail about the real extent of the outbreak.
The report, carried by the Rodong Sinmun, comes less than two weeks after the DPRK notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that it had detected several cases of ASF on a farm in Jagang province, on the country’s border with China.
77 out of 99 infected pigs were reported dead, with the rest having been culled.
Since then, the Rodong, an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), has carried several articles warning of the danger of ASF, reporting on preventive measures taken against the virus and on an ongoing outbreak of the virus in China and Vietnam.
Wednesday’s article appears to be the first indirect acknowledgment that an epidemic has hit the country, however.
“Veterinary and emergency anti-epidemic projects have been actively implemented across the country to prevent the spread of African swine fever, which is a highly contagious viral disease,” the Rodong said, in an article carried on the fourth page of its Wednesday edition.
Workers in the veterinary and anti-epidemic field of the DPRK’s Ministry of Agriculture have been “implementing organizational works in a watertight manner to thoroughly ensure the safety of livestock production,” it added.
“A project explaining and propagating the concept and danger of African swine fever, global occurrence trends, and anti-epidemic measures have been comprehensively carried out in various forms and methods,” the Rodong reported.
Livestock farms have also begun displaying slogans promoting the emergency prevention of epidemics, it continued, and are coming up with measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, including prohibiting outsiders from entering their facilities and the “thorough disinfection of transportation means and pigsties.”
Related sectors including the commerce, health, and quality supervision fields, the Rodong added, have “actively participated in veterinary and emergency anti-epidemic projects including the ban on the flow and sales of pork and processed goods.”
The Rodong also called on ruling party organizations to “profoundly implement political work based on the party’s livestock policy to make officials and workers recognize the importance” of preventing infectious diseases.
North Korean farms must also “produce various livestock medicine by themselves with herbs that are common in each’s region and utilize them,” it stressed.
A quarantine system also needs to be reinforced along North Korea’s border with China, the newspaper said, to “thoroughly prevent highly contagious diseases from entering the country.”
In the article, the party daily also warned of the consequences of a wider outbreak of the ASF, saying the illness can result in the “death of herd livestock” in livestock farming bases, cooperative farms, and the farmhouses of individuals keeping livestock.
“The veterinary anti-epidemic project is a life-and-death issue related to the fate of the livestock industry.”
Following its report to the OIE last month, the Rodong on May 31 carried three articles on the outbreak of ASF in China and Vietnam.
Several days later, the party daily carried an interview with Dr. Jon Sung Chil, who serves as department head at the Veterinary Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Science.
Jon explained the high costs of pig Ebola on local economies, and stressed that “thorough measures should be taken in uninfected areas” to prevent outbreaks.
Although the interview suggested that disease control projects are underway, it did not provide any details, with the reporter simply calling on North Koreans to actively engage in an “all-people campaign” to prevent the spread of ASF.
The South Korean government last month expressed its willingness to work with the North in controlling the outbreak.
Pyongyang is yet to respond to Seoul’s proposal, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification (MOU) said on Wednesday.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: DPRK Today