At Kaesong, North keeps its guard up

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At Kaesong, North keeps its guard up

North Korea asked for personal prevention equipment to be set up at the Kaesong Industrial Complex following a series of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) infections in South Korea, where so far two people are confirmed to have died from the virus.

An official from the Ministry of Unification said on Thursday that the North had requested thermal detectors be sent across the border so that it could potentially detect the virus in people coming in and going out of the complex.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean business cooperation where more than 120 South Korean firms employ 54,000 North Korean workers.

“The North raised the issue of the MERS outbreak here in the South and requested thermal scanners be provided,” said an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, adding that the request had been made verbally.

The official said the Unification Ministry will send three thermal scanners as requested as soon as possible.

The ministry, the source added, would also consult with the South Korean companies operating in the border city on providing masks to their North Korean employees, as North Korea had requested.

“The government will do its utmost to prevent the disease from spreading across the border into Kaesong,” the official said.

North Korea is sensitive about the spread of MERS, largely due to the reclusive state’s poorly managed medical systems. It previously banned foreign travelers from visiting North Korea for about five months last year, in what was seen as an extreme reaction to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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