Following reports that North Korea has been hit by swine flu, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak instructed his government Tuesday to provide swift medical help.
Pyongyang has not officially reported any cases. But Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group that has contacts in the North, reported Monday A(H1N1) flu has been spreading rapidly there.
AdvertisementLee told a cabinet meeting the government should help North Korea after confirming the report, the president's office said.
"Assistance must be provided swiftly as the disease could quickly spread in North Korea where conditions are not so good. It's better to send drugs unconditionally," he was quoted as saying.
Most government-to-government aid was suspended after cross-border relations worsened last year, although private Seoul groups still send shipments northwards.
In October the Seoul government offered its hungry neighbour 10,000 tons of corn plus 20 tons of milk powder and medicine, but there has been no official response from Pyongyang.
Good Friends said the number of North Korean children infected with swine flu has been increasing because the anti-viral drug Tamiflu is rare in the country.
Seven youths including three college students died in Pyongyang in November while two others reportedly died in Pyongsong, north of the capital, it said.
Last Friday North Korean schools started winter vacation a month early following a joint meeting of health and education ministry officials, the group said.
Lee also called for continued efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the South, saying the number of new cases was dropping but that infections could surge if left unchecked.
A total of 117 people have died from the virus in South Korea.