People in South Korea's southern regions have been urged not to return to home towns there for the Lunar New Year holiday for fear of spreading the nation's worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Millions customarily travel to home towns to celebrate with their families the major traditional holiday, which falls this year on February 2-4.
AdvertisementBut southern regions that have largely been spared the outbreak said the holiday may be a critical point in preventing a nationwide epidemic.
Lee Hong-Ki, mayor of the southeastern county of Geochang, appealed to President Lee Myung-Bak to persuade people not to travel to or from regions unaffected by the disease.
Other regional governments including those for South Jeolla and South Gyeongsang provinces also advised people not to travel but to call relatives instead.
"We understand people miss families around this time of year, but this is like a battle situation where everyone's cooperation is critical," a South Gyeongsang provincial spokesman told AFP.
"Family reunions can wait until the outbreak is over."
Authorities have ordered the culling of about two million livestock, 15 percent of the nation's cattle and pigs, to contain the outbreak that started last November.
Foot-and-mouth disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep.