South Korea is seeking to regain the status of a country free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) with vaccination, the government said Wednesday, a move partly aimed at boosting the country's exports of pork and beef products.
The country plans to file a request with the Organization for Animal Health on Friday to regain its status as an FMD-free country with vaccination, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The animal health organization, better known by its French name Office International des Epizooties (OIE), is expected to review the request and make a final decision at its general assembly slated for May 2014, the ministry said in a press release.
FMD is a viral disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild pigs, cows and sheep. South Korea reported its last outbreak of the disease in 2011.
The move comes shortly after the government filed a separate request with the OIE late last month to be given the status of a nation with negligible risks for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as mad cow disease.
South Korea imports large amounts of pork and beef to meet its needs but is seeking to export its premium beef, called Hanwoo, for the first time in its history amid growing demands in neighboring Asian countries including China for safe and high-quality foodstuff.
To assist its efforts to regain the status of an FMD-free country, the government has designated a period from Oct. 2 to the end of May next year for a special campaign and quarantine against FMD and avian influenza (AI).
Throughout the period, special inspection teams will be permanently stationed at all 41 points of exit and entry in the country to help prevent any inflow of FMD and AI viruses.
"Regaining the status of an FMD-free country will first mean the country has to ensure the safety of its consumers," said Lee Joon-won, deputy minister of food and agriculture.
"Also, it may help develop the country's livestock industry by expanding its market, which, in turn, will help strengthen its capacity to export its products to other countries," he told a press briefing.