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Russian help sought in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea

A consortium of South Korean biomedical companies is to manufacture Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. File Photo by RDIF/EPA-EFE
A consortium of South Korean biomedical companies is to manufacture Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. File Photo by RDIF/EPA-EFE

April 27 (UPI) -- A South Korean politician requested that Russia supply North Korea with its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines for humanitarian reasons.

Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon Province, met with Russian Ambassador to Seoul Andrey Kulik in Chuncheon on Tuesday. Choi said the aid would support inter-Korea exchange, Yonhap reported.

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"People-to-people exchange at the North Korean port of Wonsan is necessary for the joint [North-South] hosting of the 2024 Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics," Choi said. "For this to be possible, supplying vaccines is the solution."

The 2024 Winter Youth Olympics is scheduled in South Korea from Jan. 19 to Feb. 2. It is the fourth edition of the event.

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Kulik said Russia is prepared to play the role of friend in solving the problems of the Korean Peninsula and is trying to play a significant role in inter-Korean relations, according to Yonhap.

A consortium of South Korean biomedical companies is cooperating with Russia's sovereign wealth fund to manufacture Russia's vaccine.

One of the Korean firms, Hankook Korus Pharm, operates a plant in Chuncheon. Kulik visited the plant Tuesday. The Gangwon Bio Solution Center also is supporting production of Russian vaccines, Choi said, according to Yonhap.

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The South Korean politician has supported Russian involvement on vaccine delivery to North Korea.

In an interview with Russian news service Sputnik in February, Choi said that sending Russian vaccines from South Korean plants to the North, with Moscow as intermediary, could "help improve inter-Korean relations."

The coronavirus pandemic has hurt North Korea's economy after the regime shut its borders in January 2020.

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In December, Russia denied a report from Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun that claimed North Korea purchased doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Moscow.

North Korea has reported zero cases of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization since the beginning of the pandemic.

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