Samples taken from areas near the inter-Korean border have tested negative for African swine fever, the ministry said Friday, raising the possibility of the resumption of a tour program to the truce village of Panmunjom next month as scheduled.
Tours to the southern side of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) have been suspended since October as part of efforts to prevent the spread of African swine fever since the highly contagious animal disease was reported near the border with North Korea.
The ministry has said it will try to resume the tours with a small group of people on a temporary basis by June if the nearby area proves to be free of the virus.
"We have received an oral notice from health authorities that a preliminary test on samples came out negative (for African swine fever)," Cho Hey-sil, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, told a regular press briefing.
"The final results are expected to be officially notified to us in the middle of June after a close analysis and additional testing," she added. "As said before, we aim to resume the tour program in June and that decision will be made in consideration of all relevant circumstances."
South Korea reported its first African swine fever outbreak in September, about four months after North Korea confirmed its first case.
Most of the confirmed cases in South Korea have been reported from areas near the inter-Korean border, with bodies of infected wild boars discovered there until recent months.
Under the highly controlled tour program, South Korea allows hundreds of citizens and foreign travelers to visit the southern side of Panmunjom straddling the two Koreas every day. (Yonhap)