Press Briefings

Regular Briefing by Spokesperson Cho Joonghoon

2022-05-17

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Date: Monday, May 16, 2022
Time: 10:30-10:44 A.M.

 

1. Regarding the proposal to hold working-level contacts for cooperation in public health and quarantine efforts

 

North Korea reported that there are more than 1.2 million fever cases and more than 50 deaths from COVID-19 as of today. In this regard, the Government announced that it is willing to actively consult with the North, including providing vaccines and medicines.

 

As the consultation with North Korea is essential to realize such cooperation, the Government plans to make a relevant proposal to the North in the near future considering the need for prompt response for the situation of COVID-19 in North Korea.

 

The Ministry has been closely discussing the timing and contents of the proposal with related agencies over the weekend in order to draw up cooperative measures to North Korea, and will provide an explanation when the proposal to North Korea is made.

 

2. Minister’s Schedule

 

At 3 P.M. today, the inauguration ceremony of Minister of Unification Kwon Young-se will be held in the auditorium on the second floor of the annex of the Seoul Government Complex.

 

Minister of Unification Kwon Young-se was appointed on May 13, the day after the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee adopted the confirmation hearing report on May 12.

 

The inauguration ceremony will be attended by employees of the Unification Ministry and will be open to the press. In addition, the Minister's inaugural address will be distributed as soon as it is ready.

 

After the ceremony, Minister Kwon will begin the official work by visiting and paying his tribute at the Seoul National Cemetery.

 

On May 17, Minister Kwon will attend the cabinet meeting at 10 A.M.

 

3. Vice Minister’s Schedule

 

On May 19, Vice Minister Kim Ki Woong will attend the Vice Ministers’ Meeting at 10:30 A.M.

 

4. Q&A

 

Q. Besides vaccines, is there anything else to specify regarding the medicines or equipment the Ministry is considering to provide to the North? Also, could you confirm the report that China dispatched a medical support group to North Korea?

 

A. The Ministry mentioned earlier that we are reviewing vaccines and other medical supplies to send to the North. President Yoon Suk-yeol also stated his will to provide medical equipment and health personnel in his speech at the plenary session of the National Assembly. Since the North may also have its preferred plan, the specific areas and contents of cooperation will be discussed in detail when inter-Korean consultations take place in the future. Meanwhile, the Government is open to areas of cooperative measures that can substantially aid North Korea's quarantine efforts.

 

Regarding the Chinese medical support, the Ministry is aware of the report and is closely monitoring the development of cooperation between North Korea and China. At this time, we do not have further information to confirm.

 

For reference, as you may know, there was a report on Saturday May 14, in which President Kim Jong Un said that the North will actively learn from China’s pandemic management strategy. In light of these comments, it is sufficient to predict a possible quarantine cooperation between China and North Korea.

 

Q. The Ministry mentioned about a proposal to hold working-level contacts. Could you specify the details of how to carry out this proposal whether it would be through the South-North Joint Liaison Office or through a different channel?

 

Did this morning’s call through the South-North Joint Liaison Office go as usual?

 

A. Since President Yoon mentioned ‘working-level contacts’ on the inter-Korean cooperation measures, the Ministry is preparing to send a letter to the North.

 

The communication through the South-North Joint Liaison Office was made as usual this morning.

 

Q. Is there a possibility that the letter will be delivered as early as today after Minister Kwon takes office?

 

A. The specific content and exact timing of the proposal to North Korea is currently under discussion among the relevant agencies, and when we deliver our will to send the letter, we will inform the media.

 

Q. At what level is the Ministry considering of holding the working-level contact? If the contact is made this time, how long has it been since the last contact between the South and the North.

 

In addition, a North Korean defector group has announced that it will distribute medicines toward North Korea. What does the Ministry think of this action? Could this be perceived as part of freedom of expression?

 

A. As I explained before, the specific matters regarding the proposal are currently under discussion, thereby will be open to explanation when the notification is made.

 

At this point, the Ministry has not yet made an offer to North Korea. Thus the Ministry is not in position to confirm when the inter-Korean talks will be held. However, we will confirm and inform you when the last inter-Korean summit was held.

 

Regarding the North Korean defector group, we understand the group’s desire to help the people of North Korea in need. However, as relevant measures are being taken on a nationwide scale in North Korea, we politely ask for the group to consider the ideal delivery method that can actually help North Koreans and the Government’s policy in supporting quarantine efforts of the North.

 

Q. There is a report by Radio Free Asia that the outbreak of COVID-19 in North Korea originated from the military parade held on April 25 and movement restrictions are in place in all military units. Could you confirm further developments related to this report?

 

A. I understand that there are a number of news reports regarding the current outbreak in North Korea.

 

North Korea has not mentioned the specific cause of the outbreak after the KCNA report on Friday May 13 that ‘fever of unknown cause has exploded in spread across the country since the end of April’.

 

The Ministry does not have more specific information to confirm than what the North Korean media has revealed.

 

Q. The U.S. State Department also announced that Pfizer, which contributed to COVAX, can be used. To what extend will the Government’s medical support such as vaccines and medicines cover? Also to follow up on the question earlier, will it include diagnostic equipment?

 

A. As mentioned earlier, the President spoke about providing medical equipment and health personnel to the North at the National Assembly and the Government is considering vaccines and other medical supplies.

 

However, I would like to reiterate that this requires consultations with North Korea, and that the Government is open to cooperative measures that can be of practical help in North Korea's quarantine efforts.

 

Q. I am aware that South Korea sent letters to the North for various issues recently. I do not recall that we received a response after the restoration of the South-North Joint Liaison Office.

 

Could you verify whether we received any reply from the North and if then, precisely when was the last time we received a feedback?

 

Also, when was the last time a letter was sent to the North and what was the reason for sending it?

 

A. I will provide you the details after the briefing.

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