Recently, in South Korea, 30 confirmed cases of bedbugs, with more than half in Seoul, have been reported. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDPA), South Korea has successfully eradicated bedbugs since 1960, thanks to the widespread availability of insecticides nationwide. Only nine cases of bedbugs have been reported in the past decade. The recent outbreak created panic across the nation.
After lifting the travel restrictions post-COVID-19, South Korea is facing a surge in tourism. The government authorities are taking initiatives to curb bedbugs amid tourism activity. According to the South Korean government, the bedbugs were first reported in a sauna in Incheon, near Seoul, and in a dormitory at Keimyung University in southeastern Daegu City.
The South Korean government initiated a four-week campaign to put an end to bedbugs. It includes inspections and pest control measures at vulnerable public locations like public transport, dormitories, bathhouses, and childcare facilities from November 13 to December 8. In places where bedbugs are suspected, immediate disinfection has to be implemented. The Korean government has allotted £312 million and composed a special unit to embark on the issue. The city government of Seoul launched a new” Bedbug Reporting and Management System and a Zero Bedbugs City Initiative,", which says it will check 3,175 lodging establishments, bathhouses, and jjimjilbang (Korean spa). These facilities accommodate a high concentration of foreign visitors.
The infestation was reported earlier in France while hosting the Rugby World Cup and in the United Kingdom. The authorities are exhorting international visitors to thoroughly disinfect their belongings. Park Ku-Yeon, first deputy chief of the office for government policy coordination, who leads the team in charge of the campaign, says “Public anxiety is inevitable as cases are reported," and KDCA director Ji-young-Mi stated to travelers “If you are exposed to bedbugs while traveling abroad, you need to disinfect your travel supplies”.
Bedbugs are tiny insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals and live in dark spaces, such as cracks in sofas and beds. Their bite causes allergies, discomfort, and psychological impacts. Lee Si-hyeock, a professor of agricultural biotechnology at Seoul National University, said that the bedbugs are showing resistance to insecticides we commonly use. Lee Hee-il, division director of vectors and parasitic disease, stated that the most effective solution is heating. A temperature of 45°C can kill the pest and their eggs. He implied that the facets behind the outbreak could comprise the upsurge in post-travel and bedbugs’ growing resistance to control measures.
Lee Sang Min, the Minister of Interior and Safety, stated that the investigation is ongoing. He suggested that the insects may have been brought from Europe by travelers, where infestations were previously present, or that they were already present in South Korea.
(Input from various media sources)