SEOUL—Three North Koreans living in the Kaesong industrial zone on the border with South Korea have become infected with the H1N1 virus, sources here report. But North Korea will be one of the first countries to receive donated vaccines for the virus.
North Korean authorities now require South Koreans to wear masks when entering the zone, run jointly by North and South Korea.
More than 100 South Korean firms operate at Kaesong and employ about 42,000 North Koreans in labor-intensive manufacturing. Three were confirmed Tuesday to be infected with the H1N1 virus.
North Korea will soon be among “the first group of countries” to receive H1N1 vaccines donated by the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), a spokesperson said Tuesday.
“WHO will work with donors and the recipient countries to make sure these first deliveries arrive possibly in January,” she said. WHO will also supply anti-viral medications to North Korea, with first deliveries expected in April and May.
South Korean vaccines
WHO reports an increasing trend of H1N1 infections in North Korea, but it describes the impact and intensity of the spread as “low,” with 19 infections reported in 2009 and confined to three cities: the capital Pyongyang, Sinuijiu, and Kaesong.
South Korea meanwhile said Tuesday it had begun vaccinating roughly 1,500 North Koreans working at Kaesong against the influenza A virus.
Some 300 North Koreans working closely with South Koreans will be the first to receive the vaccine. Another 40,000 North Koreans working in South Korean-owned factories will also be vaccinated over the next few weeks.
Some 110 South Korean firms operate at the complex, employing about 42,000 North Korean workers who produce labor-intensive goods such as clothing and kitchenware.
Original reporting by Ahreum Jung for RFA's Korean service. Korean service director: Bong Park. Translated by Ahreum Jung. Written for the Web in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.