South Korea's top diplomat in the city says a two-month travel warning issued by the Hong Kong government against his country during the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) outbreak was "excessive". Kim Kwang-dong, South Korea's consul general in Hong Kong and Macau, said the move had had a huge economic impact on both places, and his country had lost a lot of opportunities to work with Hongkongers. He also defended South Korea's decision a month later to issue a travel alert for Hong Kong over influenza cases in the city, stressing it was based on scientific evidence. Now that both alerts have been lifted, Kim said he hoped authorities would look to the future, stressing South Korea still considered Hong Kong a "very close friend". "During the alert, South Korean people including myself were feeling a little bit hurt," Kim told the South China Morning Post . "In my opinion, it was excessive, even though I fully understand that Hong Kong suffered from the experience during 2003's Sars," he said, referring to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. South Korea recorded 186 cases of Mers, including 36 deaths, since May. Hong Kong health authorities first raised their "health response level" for the country to "serious" on June 8, but the government bowed to public pressure the next day to issue its first official travel warning based on public health concerns. The "red" outbound travel alert, which was lifted on August 1, had previously been issued only for war-ravaged countries or those facing security threats. Kim pointed out that Hong Kong was the only place to issue a high-level alert against travel to South Korea, while countries in the Americas and Europe joined Japan in only issuing advice to travellers not to visit medical facilities and to wash their hands more frequently. Kim denied that the South Korean government's blue warning - the lowest on a scale of four - against travel to Hong Kong during the influenza outbreak in July was "retaliation". He said the decision was based on scientific evidence. He cited a South Korean newspaper report saying "over 560 people had died in Hong Kong so far this year from seasonal influenza, far more than the" number of deaths is South Korea as a result of Mers.