ee Yu-sup and Kim Hyo-jin
South Korea on Tuesday raised its epidemic action plan to the highest level after it identified the first case of African swine fever near the border with North Korea, which earlier reported the spread of the highly contagious disease that has already ravaged the pig industry in China, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.
The agriculture ministry on Tuesday confirmed the first case of African swine fever at a pig farm in Paju, northwest of Seoul and just south of the inter-Korean border. This is less than four months after North Korea reported its first outbreak of the disease at a farm near its border with China in late May.
The highly contagious virus was first reported in China in August 2018 and has been quickly spreading to neighboring countries including Vietnam and Mongolia.
The disease, dubbed "pig Ebola," is known to be harmless to humans but deadly to pigs. No vaccine has yet been invented for the virus. The best way to stop its spreading is massive culling, which has resulted in a 40 percent surge in pork prices in China since the outbreak.
Kim Hyeon-soo, the agriculture minister, announced immediate measures to contain the disease in Korea. Some 3,950 pigs would be culled on Tuesday alone and a nationwide standstill imposed on all pig farms, slaughter houses and feed factories for the next 48 hours.
Authorities said the impact on domestic pork prices would be limited as there are no large pig farms in the area.
Shares of animal pharmaceutical companies and pork alternative meat companies jumped upon the news. Shares of Eaglevet and Woogene B&G, makers of animal vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, soared to the daily limit of 30 percent to trade at 8,190 won ($6.90) and 3,165 won, respectively. Shares of the chicken producer Maniker surged 29.87 percent to 1,100 won. Related companies also saw their shares rise more than 10 percent.