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WHO to permanently close Korean branch office

The World Health Organization will soon close down its South Korean office after deciding that the country, formerly a beneficiary of foreign aid, is no longer in need of its services, the government said Friday.

Given that Korea has now become a major donor country, WHO officials concluded that its local branch is not necessary and should be shut down at the end of this month, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Last year, the nation contributed a total of $10.5 million to the world health body’s support fund, becoming the eleventh-largest benefactor country worldwide.

The WHO first established its South Korean liaison office in 1962 to send professionals to the war-torn nation and provide medical services to fight health and hygiene problems such as tuberculosis, leprosy and parasites until the 1980s.

Following South Korea’s rapid economic growth, the WHO bureau, which had been elevated to a mission office in 1965, was again downgraded to a liaison office in 1999.

Currently, only one staff member works at the WHO office in Gwacheon, just south of Seoul, and related affairs are mostly handled through the organization’s regional office for the Western Pacific located in Manila. (Yonhap News)