South Korea has put the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia on its priority list for exporting quarantine supplies, such as coronavirus test kits, a Seoul official said Friday, as nearly 120 countries seek to secure the products manufactured here.
The foreign ministry official made the remarks a day after the government held the first meeting of an interagency team formed for discussions on striking a delicate balance between domestic demand and the export or humanitarian provision of quarantine items.
A total of 117 countries have so far sought to import COVID-19 test kits and other items or receive them as humanitarian aid, through either government channels or private-sector routes, the official said.
"The country on which we put the foremost priority is the U.S., as there has been a spike in new infections there, and President Donald Trump has also made a request to us himself, while the US has not barred the entry of our citizens and struck a currency swap deal with South Korea," the official said.
Also on the priority list are the UAE, which the official said has maintained cooperation in various sectors, and Indonesia, a key partner nation for Seoul's New Southern Policy aimed at boosting ties with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Touching on the ongoing debate on the potential outbound shipments of quarantine products, the official reiterated the key principle: Any decision on exports can come only after assurances that outbound shipments would not cause any domestic shortfalls.
The interagency team on the strategic decisions was instituted as Seoul officials seek to meet the growing international demand for Korea-made quarantine products in a way that advances the country's overall diplomatic and economic interests, officials said.
"We formed the team, thinking that the support should proceed in a direction of promoting not only diplomatic interests but also practical economic interests, and maximizing our soft power as an advanced nation in terms of quarantine expertise," he said.
Of the 117 countries that sought South Korean quarantine products, 31 countries have contacted the Seoul government seeking to import the products while 30 countries have requested those products as humanitarian aid.
In addition, 20 countries have expressed hope to both import those products and receive them as humanitarian assistance, while 36 countries have been seeking the items through civilian-sector cooperation. (Yonhap)