Trump requested kit testing in a March 25 phone call to President Moon Jae-in, while the United States was struggling with rapidly growing epidemics in many states.
A US Federal Emergency Management Agency cargo plane carrying the equipment is scheduled to depart at 10:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. GMT) on Tuesday, the official said on condition of anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter.
The kits were manufactured by two of the three companies that obtained preliminary arrival late last month from the US Food and Drug Administration, said the official, but declined to name them.
Shipments will be handed over and paid for by the United States government, while the additional 150,000 kits will be exported in the near future for sale through an unspecified local retailer, the official said.
South Korea’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
South Korean companies have already shipped test kits to U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, but this would mark the first bulk order from the U.S. federal government.
Formerly struggling with the first major epidemic outside of China, South Korea has largely succeeded in controlling its cases of coronavirus without major interruption thanks to a massive testing campaign and an intensive search for contacts.
South Korea credits part of its success to measures taken by government officials and private companies to develop and obtain regulatory approval for the tests, allowing the country to rapidly test thousands of people.
The United States has recorded more deaths from the virus than any other country, nearly 22,000 as of Sunday, with 42 states imposing strict home stay orders.
“We acted as quickly as possible to obtain the necessary permits given the urgency of the situation there,” said the South Korean official.
(This story goes back to correct the typo to say that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not a minister in paragraph 6)
Report by Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha; Editing by Lincoln Feast.
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