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Lee Joo-ho, the Director-General of the NVRQS

Prevention is the Best Policy


Recently, the export of Korean chicken and its by-products has resumed. Also, processed pork products are being exported to Japan. These exports are a testament to the safety of Korean stock farm products and it undoubtedly augurs well for the export of Korean livestock products in the future.

The Korea AgraFood talked to Mr. Lee Joo-ho, the Director-General of the National Veterinary Research & Quarantine Service (NVRQS), who is responsible for managing the safety of Korean livestock products, about the background to the resumption of Korean chicken and pork exports. In particular, his opinion was solicited on how Korean meat is secure from animal diseases and what activities to prevent the diseases are performed. 
AgraFood : From early July this year, Korean pork and chicken have been re-exported to Japan and Hong Kong. Could you fill us in on the background of this resumption of export?  

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Lee : The Korean government took severe preventive measures against bird flu and acquired the status of clean nation free of HP AI from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on August 15, 2008. After that the government asked Hong Kong to resume the import of Korean poultry and poultry products. The Hong Kong government requested information on the outbreak of HP AI in Korea and then duly reviewed it finally announcing on July 9 that it decided to allow Korean poultry to be imported again after the government concluded that the AI outbreak in Korea had ended and preventive controls were in place.  

The Korean Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MIFAFF) has been seeking the way to revitalize the export of heat-treated pork products. To this end, the MIFAFF, along with their Japanese counterpart, formulated the condition of import sanitation on heat-treated pork and the pork products. For their part, Korean pork-exporting companies have been continuously making full efforts to research the market and to meet the standard of facility equipment that is stated in the condition forged with Japan. Through these assiduous efforts, Japan has been opening up again gradually to Korean meat. After Japan’s quarantine office inspected two working sites in Korea, it approved them for the export of the heat-treated pork products produced there. 

AgraFood : Do you think Korea is now a safe area free from foot-and-mouth disease and the high-pathogenic avian flu?

Lee : To keep the status of clean nation free of foot-and-mouth disease obtained in 2002, the Korean government has set the special control period from March to May every year when it will intensify prevention measures at that time. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers the inspection, prevention, and control measures being implemented in Korea are very effective. Thus there is ample evidence that we have secured safety from the foot-and-mouth disease.   

The Korean government operates intensified border quarantine inspection to block the possible influx of the flu, and controls the places in the south of the Korean peninsula the migratory birds tend to appear. In addition, the government is working together with livestock farmers and producers to thoroughly control the HP AI by executing a sterilization program.

AgraFood : It is expected that the export of ‘Samgyetang’(ginseng chicken soup), one of popular Korean foods abroad, will be positively affected by this resumption of chicken export. Is this what you envisage?

Lee : I think that if the safety and quality of our fresh poultry products are recognized in overseas countries, then the export of the poultry-processed products like Samgyetang will be more brisk. One of the stock farm products difficult to export is fresh meat. So once the safety and quality is recognized, the processed products made of fresh meat will be that much easier to export.

AgraFood : Prevention is essential to manage the safeness of stock farm products. How will the NVRQS deal with this in the future?

Lee : The NVRQS is phasing in the establishment of a distal prevention system for animals for five years from 2009. The aim is to build up an advanced national prevention system for animals that is based on IT (information technology) and takes care of all the related steps from quarantine and inspection, disease diagnosis, and control through to post management. We are also establishing an animal hygiene and management system that is centered on disease prevention. Through these measures we can analyze the information on the disease outbreak at all times and take prompt measures on animal epidemics from the very outset. We plan to apply these systems as part of our effective to prevention policy.

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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