The South Korean Defense Ministry has begun delivering directions for the military to follow in the event of a biological weapons strike by North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday (see GSN, Feb. 9).
South Korean lawmaker Song Young-sun said defense officials started distributing the 130-page document at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012. The biological attack-response guidelines detail the roles that different military command levels would take following an attack with a weaponized pathogen, among other matters.
The document also offers data on disease materials that North Korea is likely to deploy, including smallpox, plague and anthrax.
The Defense Ministry has established four cautionary levels for a biological assault. Blue indicates a "guarded" situation, with warning levels moving up to yellow for "elevated," orange for "high" and finally red for "severe."
Seoul suspects Pyongyang has developed 13 separate disease agents that could be disseminated in an air-based attack. At present, South Korea solely possesses vaccines for cholera and smallpox (see GSN, Sept. 26, 2011).
Biodefense analysts have said it would take just 10 kilograms of anthrax to wipe out as many as 5 million Seoul residents in no more than 10 days.
"North Korea's biological agents are asymmetrical weapons that can cause overwhelming chaos and damage, and we need to quickly develop additional vaccines," Song said. "Under the new North Korean leadership of Kim Jong Un, things could change suddenly on the peninsula. We have to be fully prepared for bioterrorism and other sorts of threats" (Yonhap News Agency, March 2).