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Blue House denies administering anthrax vaccines to Moon and aides

Dec 25,2017
The Blue House denied Sunday a local report that it imported anthrax vaccines for President Moon Jae-in and his aides to guard against a biochemical attack by North Korea, saying the purchase was planned by the previous government to be used as an emergency cure, not as a prophylactic.

Presidential Spokesman Park Soo-hyun issued a press release Sunday to refute a report by a conservative online media outlet called Newstown. It published a report on Saturday saying the Blue House made an emergency purchase of 500 doses of anthrax vaccine in October, claiming that the Moon administration was vaccinated while the public was left vulnerable.

While admitting that the government made the purchase of vaccines, Park said the report made an “extremely malicious interpretation” and vowed to take legal action.

The report said the Blue House issued an order to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in June to import the vaccine from a Canadian company for the purpose of treating the president and Blue House officials. About 500 officials of the Blue House probably received injections, the report claimed.

Newstown condemned Moon for assuring Koreans there will be no war while he and his aides have access to an underground nuclear bunker and received anthrax vaccine injections. It also claimed that the North has 13 kinds of biochemical weapons and the government bought the anthrax vaccines because the North tipped off “the commies in the Blue House” in advance about attack plans.

In the press release on Sunday, Park said the Blue House purchased 350 doses of anthrax vaccine from a foreign country on Nov. 2 and stored them at a military hospital.

He stressed that the purchase was planned in early 2016 during the Park Geun-hye administration and a budget was allocated in 2017. Park said the Moon Blue House took all legal steps to make the purchase. The Presidential Security Service sent an official letter to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on July 4 to request the purchase and the ministry later approved the import.

Park said the purchase was planned to counter a possible emergency after a live anthrax sample was accidentally shipped to a U.S. military base in Korea. In May 2015, an Army laboratory mistakenly sent live samples, instead of dead spores, to Osan Air Base for a training event. The U.S. Forces Korea took precautionary measures and no infection was reported.

Park also said the vaccines are purchased to be used as an emergency cure. While antibiotics are generally used to treat patients, anthrax vaccines are for emergency use after exposure in certain situations, such as a bioterrorist attack.

The Blue House said the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also completed another purchase of 1,000 doses of anthrax vaccines. They are to be used to vaccinate biochemical counterterrorism agents or cure exposed civilians.

“Because no clinical trials have taken place in Korea, we are not considering vaccinating the general public,” Park said.
The controversial media report has its roots in an opposition lawmaker’s claim. In October, Rep. Kim Sang-hoon of the Liberty Korea Party said the Presidential Security Service of the Moon Blue House purchased anthrax cures for Moon and his aides.

Some Japanese media including the Asahi Shimbun reported recently that the North has begun tests to load anthrax onto intercontinental ballistic missiles.

BY SER MYO-JA ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr