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South Korean military deployed for Olympic security after guards get superflu

Olympic security guards in Pyeongchang. (YouTube)
February 06, 2018

As the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are set to begin on Thursday, South Korea has deployed 900 members of its military to take over Olympic security after 1,200 guards were taken off duty due to a norovirus outbreak.

The virus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, affected at least 41 guards, who experienced unexpected episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. All 41 guards had been staying in the same building.

To be cautious, all security guards were replaced with the South Korean soldiers as of Monday, according to the Pyeongchang Olympics Committee.

“The military personnel … will be responsible for security checks of the 20 venues as they take up jobs such as security searches, previously done by civilian safety personnel, until the patients’ condition is normalized,” the committee said in a statement, CNN reported.

All accommodations and transportation were also being disinfected.

The Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) also made a statement Monday.

“KCDC dispatched an immediate response team to the Pyeongchang site to check additional people for symptoms, check the origin of the exposure, take measures to control infection and prevent spread,” it said, CNN reported.

The Winter Olympics opening ceremony is Thursday, Feb. 8, and the closing ceremony will take place on Sunday, Feb. 25.

There has been much attention given to this year’s Winter Olympics, as the event takes place on the Korean Peninsula amid ever-growing tensions between the United States and North Korea.

North Korea recently announced it would send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. It will also be sending a 230-person cheering squad.

On Jan. 3, North Korea reopened a once dormant telephone hotline that links directly to South Korea, and the two countries spoke for 20 minutes, this in advance of the historic North-South Korean meeting that took place – it was the first time negotiators met in two years.

Both North Korea and South Korea planned to re-open a second military hotline on the Korean peninsula. The red and green phone system is one of 33 direct lines that the two countries once used to communicate. The particular hotline that was reopened is located in the “truce village” of Panmunjom in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

On Jan. 4, following the opening of the hotline, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to delay scheduled joint military exercises during the Winter Olympics.

On Jan. 9, North Korea agreed to send athletes to the Winter Olympics. Earlier that day, South Korea had said it would temporarily lift sanctions on North Korea so that they could participate in the Olympic Games. South Korea also proposed at that time that North Korean athletes should march with South Korean athletes during the Winter Olympics’ Opening and Closing ceremonies.

North Korea’s delegation to the Olympics in South Korea will include athletes, a cheering squad, a performance-art troupe, observers, a taekwondo demonstration team and journalists, according to a statement from South Korean Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung.

Despite the positive appearance, North Korea is expected to use the Olympics as a distraction from greater issues, so-called “charm offensives.” Historically, after such actions, North Korea often becomes aggressive and will act on that.