Vice FM says S. Korea committed to active role in fighting malaria, tuberculosis

SEOUL-- South Korea is committed to playing an active role in eliminating globally rampant infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, a senior diplomat said Tuesday.

Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho also underscored the need for expanded collaboration with the private health care sector in order to achieve the goal of rooting out the diseases.

"(South) Korea desires to remain an active partner of the Global Fund ... for its part, plans to fulfill its responsibility through contribution to eliminate the diseases," he told a forum hosted by the foreign ministry and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"I cannot overemphasize stronger ties with private sector. ... Korea's private health sector has played a meaningful role in the pharmaceutical and bio tech industries, developing solutions with other development agencies," he said.

The Global Fund is an international financing agency set up in Geneva in 2002 to support a U.N.-led initiative to end major epidemics. Tuesday's forum was held in Seoul to promote its campaign to raise funds ahead of its general meeting to be held in France next month.

Noting that North Korea is also one of the Global Fund beneficiaries, the vice minister pointed out that participating in its initiative in fighting against the diseases is important as it directly impacts the Korean Peninsula.

"The DPRK has been receiving (funds) more than any other country. ... Considering the proximity of the two Koreas and relatively high incidences of the diseases (in the North), it is very important for South Korea to adequately address the problem since it directly relates to health care of the entire peninsula," Lee said.

He referred to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Lee called for international efforts to enhance treatment and prevention of the infectious diseases and hoped for the forum to provide insights for solutions.

South Korea pledged US$11.7 million for the Global Fund from 2017-2019 and has made a cumulative contribution worth $40.6 million since 2004, according to the fund's data.

Meanwhile, the Global Fund is in talks with the North Korean authorities over the possible resumption of its activities to support the North, an official of the agency said.

In February 2018, the agency announced its suspension of grants to the impoverished country. It reportedly said that the "unique" operating system in the country prevented it from being able to provide its board with the required level of assurance and risk management regarding the deployment of its resources.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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