South Korea stepped up major quarantine efforts Monday as a highly contagious animal disease threatened the centre of its livestock industry.

The agriculture ministry said more roadblocks and quarantine posts were set up after the foot-and-mouth outbreak hit a state livestock research institute at Cheongyang, 160 kilometres (96 miles) south of Seoul, on Saturday.

The Livestock and Veterinary Science Institute had raised 1,549 beef cattle and hogs for research and breeding. These were culled to contain the disease.

The outbreak there was the 10th since April 9 and was close to Seosan and Yesan counties which have major cattle farms.

Agriculture Minister Chang Tae-Pyong visited the institute Sunday and called for intensive efforts to contain the outbreak.

"All-out efforts must be made to stop it from spreading into the centre of our livestock industry," he said.

Foot-and-mouth disease affects cloven-hoofed animals including cows, sheep, goats and deer. It is rarely transmitted to humans but spreads easily between animals.

Since the first outbreak was reported on an island west of Seoul, the disease has spread from there to North and South Chungcheong provinces. Quarantine officials helped by police and troops have culled some 49,000 animals.

Foot-and-mouth outbreaks in 2000 and 2002 cost South Korea an estimated 450 billion won, including compensation.

The government has paid about 55 billion won (49 million dollars) in compensation alone to farmers so far this year.

"Total costs are not available but this year's compensation will be a record high because our efforts have so far focused on the destruction of animals," a ministry official told AFP.