SEOUL — South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak urged the military on Thursday to help more in the battle against the country’s worst-ever outbreak of foot and mouth disease, after half a million animals were culled.
“I know the military is already offering active support (in slaughtering the animals), but I want more cooperation from the military,” he told cabinet members.
Lee also urged the military to “cooperate when the outbreak spreads to new regions” and all related government agencies to offer “special treatment for those involved in culling efforts.”
A total of 66 cases have been reported across the nation since Nov. 29, prompting the culling of nearly 550,000 cattle, pigs and other cloven-hoofed animals, Yonhap news agency reported.
The agriculture ministry estimated losses due to the outbreak at 400 billion won (US$350 million).
About 160,000 animals were killed during the previous worst outbreak in 2002.
The army has deployed some 35,000 troops as well as 400 pieces of equipment including excavators to help contain the disease. It will deploy an additional 3,360 soldiers beginning Thursday, a defense ministry spokesman said.
“From now on, we will make even more aggressive efforts to help contain the disease,” the spokesman told AFP.
In a desperate attempt to curtail the spread of the disease, the government on Saturday launched vaccinations for some 56,000 cattle. It takes longer for a country that uses vaccinations to regain disease-free status from the World Organization for Animal Health than when the disease is curbed solely by culling.
Previous outbreaks in January and April this year cost more than 250 billion won and left nearly 50,000 animals slaughtered. The disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep.