DMZ hiking trail closes to prevent spread of ASF

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DMZ hiking trail closes to prevent spread of ASF

A demilitarized zone (DMZ) hiking trail on the east coast will be closed indefinitely this week as part of the government’s efforts to fight the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in inter-Korean border areas, officials said Monday.

Goseong County in Gangwon said it will shut down the Goseong DMZ Peace Trail program on Tuesday, following similar decisions by two other border towns in the central and western border regions on Sept. 19 to halt their own DMZ trail programs.

Goseong launched the nation’s first DMZ Peace Trail program in April as part of Seoul’s efforts to allow visitors to experience inter-Korean peace and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The DMZ, which is about 250 km long (155 miles) and 4 km wide, is one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders, with the rival Koreas technically in a state of conflict as the Korean War (1950-1953) ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The second and third DMZ Peace Trail programs kicked off in the central border town of Cheorwon, Gangwon, in July and the western border city of Paju, Gyeonggi, in August.

Goseong’s county officials said the suspension will remain in place until the situation settles down in order to prevent further spread of the highly contagious animal disease, protect local livestock farmers and support the nationwide campaign to terminate the ASF crisis.

South Korea’s quarantine authorities have been implementing disinfection operations at major roads and rivers near the inter-Korean border, as the country has experienced nine ASF cases since Sept. 17. ASF is not harmful to people, but it is fatal for pigs and there is no known cure.

“There has not been any ASF outbreak reported in the Goseong area, but the suspension of the DMZ trail program was inevitable to join the nationwide efforts to contain the highly infectious swine disease. We also ask for greater understanding from those who have long-waited for the opportunity to explore the scenic coastal border areas,” a Goseong official said.

The Goseong DMZ trail was particularly popular among tourists wanting to have a closer look at North Korea’s scenic eastern coast, lakes and mountains.

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