(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES throughout)
By Park Boram
SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul city government on Wednesday erroneously sent out an emergency alert advising citizens to prepare for evacuation after North Korea's launch of what appeared to be a space launch vehicle.
The mobile phone alert was sent to all Seoul citizens at 6:41 a.m., shortly after the Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea fired what appeared to be a space launch vehicle. But the interior ministry retracted it at 7:03 a.m., saying the alert was sent by mistake.
"We inform that the alert warning issued by the Seoul Metropolitan City at 6:41 a.m. was an erroneous issuance," the interior ministry said in a separate mobile phone alert.
A ministry official said that Seoul is not an area where an alert has been issued.
The Seoul city government said it was looking into why the alert was set off.
The interior ministry separately sent out an emergency alert to residents of Baengnyeong Island and Daecheong Island, near the western Northern Limit Line separating the two Koreas, advising islanders to evacuate.
Sirens sounded for over 20 minutes in Baengnyeong areas and an evacuation advisory was broadcasted across the region, according to residents.
A township office in Baengnyeong told Yonhap News Agency, "The doors of some 20 shelters were opened up, and many residents took refuge."
The North has notified Japan and the International Maritime Organization of its plan to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11.