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Anti-invasion troops deployed for boar hunt

Oct 16,2019
Hundreds of professional hunters and soldiers armed with military sniper rifles, assault rifles and thermal imaging devices started hunting wild boars on Tuesday near the border with North Korea in an all-out effort to stop the spread of African swine fever (ASF).

Around 80 teams consisting of military troops trained against a North Korean invasion, including forces from the Special Warfare Command, will instead scour the border area for wild boars day and night, ranging from Paju in Gyeonggi in the west to Goseong County in Gangwon in the east. The government is expending all available resources, with the Korea Forest Service deploying thermal camera-equipped drones to track wild boars at night.

The government effort will last for 48 hours until Thursday morning and target boars in civilian-restricted areas near the border, including the demilitarized zone, following revelations of infected wild boars in the border region.

While the heavily-fortified border had previously been regarded as a physical buffer against the disease after North Korea confirmed an outbreak of ASF in May, the South Korean government has been on alert after it discovered six wild boar carcasses infected with ASF near the border since the outbreak last month.

Authorities confirmed the sixth case on Tuesday from a wild boar carcass discovered a day earlier near the civilian-restricted zone in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi. Four infected wild boars were confirmed last weekend in Gyeonggi and Gangwon.

The government has decided to kill wild boars in the border regions as a precautionary measure against the spread of the deadly disease, shifting its focus from containment of farmed pigs. Over 150,000 pigs have so far been culled after confirmation of the disease at 14 farms.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the 48-hour hunt is just the beginning and will serve as a preliminary measure before the government launches a full-scale operation.

“We need to assess what other preparations are needed after the preliminary hunt, and we will likely increase the scope of the operation,” said an official at the Ministry of National Defense.

During the 48-hour period, all civilians including residents from nearby regions will be restricted from entering the hunting zones.

The government has installed barbed wire fences around the hunting regions to stop wild boars from fleeing into other parts of the country. It had previously banned hunting wild boars with guns in the border regions due to the possibility that it could stir up more activity and in turn spread the disease.

The government has also rolled out measures to effectively halt the spread of ASF by eradicating the pig population from regions with infected sites. It is currently purchasing animals from unaffected farms for slaughter.

The effort seems to have had an impact on halting the virus’s spread as there has yet to be an additional case of ASF from farmed pigs since Oct. 9.

Pork prices have also stabilized with the slowdown in infections, as consumer prices for a kilogram of samgyeopsal, or pork belly, fell 0.7 percent to 19,170 won ($7.34 per pound) on Monday from 19,300 won on Friday.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]