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South Korea scientist to join task force on anthrax shipment

The decision to send a South Korean bacteria expert to the site comes after a July 29 meeting.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea scientist to join task force on anthrax shipment
A U.S. soldier stands watch with South Korean military police in front of the the southern side of the Joint Security Area's (JSA) demarcation line separating South Korea from North Korea (in the background) in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Seoul on January 29, 2013. U.S. Forces Korea has agreed to a joint U.S.-South Korea investigation of a live anthrax shipment to Osan Air Base. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A South Korea bacteria expert is to join a task force assigned to investigate the shipment of live anthrax bacteria to a U.S. airbase outside Seoul.

The decision on Tuesday comes after Nam Kyung-pil, governor of Gyeonggi province, sent a request to U.S. Forces Korea to open the investigation to South Korean experts, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.

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The matter is of local importance, a spokesman for Gyeonggi province told South Korean news agency Yonhap.

"There are many [U.S.] military bases stationed in Gyeonggi, and intervention is necessary because this is the region where the incident occurred," the spokesman said.

"Investigators from Gyeonggi need to be involved, not only to listen to the explanation of the authorities, but also to alleviate the anxieties of local residents."

The province's decision to send South Korean bacteria expert Park Sa-geub to the site comes after a July 29 meeting.

The April shipment of live anthrax to a laboratory at Osan Air Base could have exposed as many as 22 people, Stars and Stripes reported.

The task-force visit on Aug. 6 is to verify whether the right safety precautions were taken at the laboratory and to provide services to personnel who were exposed, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.

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USFK has said the anthrax sample was destroyed and public health is not at risk.

But the incident has caused uproar in South Korea, and activists have called for stricter controls of agents being brought into the country through U.S. military channels.

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