SEOUL : South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Monday (May 16) that the country will spare no effort to help North Korea, as the isolated nation battles a COVID-19 outbreak, and reiterated he will remain open for humanitarian aid.
"If North Korea responds (to our support), we will spare no medicines including COVID-19 vaccines, medical equipment and health personnel," said Yoon in a speech at the plenary session of the National Assembly.
Separately in the speech, Yoon also said he will discuss with US President Joe Biden ways to strengthen cooperation on the global supply chain through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Biden is scheduled to visit the country this week.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the military to stabilise the distribution of COVID-19 medicines in the capital, Pyongyang, in the battle against the country's first confirmed outbreak of the disease, state media said.
Last week brought the North's first acknowledgment of an "explosive" outbreak, with experts warning it could wreak devastation in a country with limited medical supplies and no vaccine programme.
Drugs procured by the state were not reaching people in a timely and accurate way, Kim told an emergency politburo meeting on Sunday, before visiting pharmacies near the capital's Taedong River, state news agency KCNA said.
Kim ordered immediate deployment of the "powerful forces" of the army's medical corps to "stabilise the supply of medicines in Pyongyang City," it added.
Although authorities had ordered distribution of national reserves of medicine, pharmacies were not well-equipped to perform their functions smoothly, Kim added, the agency said.
Among their shortcomings were a lack of adequate drug storage other than showcases, while salespeople were not equipped with the proper sanitary clothing and hygiene in their surroundings fell short of standards, the leader said.
He criticised the "irresponsible" work attitude, organisation and execution by the cabinet and the public health sector, it added.