A letter sent by North Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture to the World Organization for Animal Health (OiE) on February 7th suggests that North Korea may be failing to cull animals infected with foot-and-mouth disease.
Unlike in 2007, when North Korea reacted swiftly to an outbreak of the disease by culling animals, this time the authorities appear to have reacted poorly despite the fact that the disease has now been found at more than 48 locations in Pyongyang City and Pyongan, Hwanghae and Kangwon Provinces.
According to an OiE report derived from the letter, in which the North finally confirmed the rumored outbreak after a month of silence, Pyongyang has apparently tried to address the situation using a combination of disinfection measures and a domestically produced vaccine, but this has met with little success.
“Given the number of livestock which have died of foot-and-mouth disease, it is uncertain just how far the infection has spread,” Korea Rural Economic Institute Vice-President Kwon Tae Jin explained to The Daily NK. “The small number of infected heads of cattle reported by North Korea is also difficult to accept at face value.”
“If the North Korean authorities have not destroyed the infected cows and pigs in the hope that they will recover, then it is a serious problem. It means we have no idea how far the disease has spread,” Kwon added.
15 of the existing locations in which the disease has so far been detected are in Pyongyang and surrounding areas. In order to combat the spread of the disease to other regions, the authorities are said to have implemented across-the-board restrictions on movement into and out of the city.
However, news of the disease has still not been reported officially, and domestic sources have told The Daily NK that they have not heard anything about it to date.