Bedbug menace sparks nationwide fear [REWIND 2023]

Workers from the state-run train operator Korail disinfect subway trains in Guro District, western Seoul, on Nov. 14 amid an alarming rise of suspected bedbug cases in the country. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]


Workers from the state-run train operator Korail disinfect subway trains in Guro District, western Seoul, on Nov. 14 amid an alarming rise of suspected bedbug cases in the country. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Workers from the state-run train operator Korail disinfect subway trains in Guro District, western Seoul, on Nov. 14 amid an alarming rise of suspected bedbug cases in the country. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

 
Public fear of bedbugs surged in Korea after reports of local infestations spiked late this year.
 
Bedbugs reportedly reappeared in the country in a jjimjilbang, or Korean bathhouse, in Incheon on Oct. 13. The pests, which survive up to 100 days without feeding, can leave a bright red rash accompanied by itches on people’s skin from their bites.
 
This was followed by belated reports of a suspected bedbug outbreak at a dormitory at Keimyung University in Daegu in September. The school kept mum about the incident until it began disinfecting facilities after reports of the Incheon infestation.
 
Bedbugs practically disappeared in Korea in the 1970s after the government improved residential conditions and sprayed DDT pesticides through the Saemaeul Movement. Authorities had received only nine reports of bedbugs since 2014.
 
As fear over the bedbug menace grew, the government opened a nationwide bulletin board that monitors the bedbug situation in real-time. Sales of bedbug pesticides skyrocketed, jumping 813 percent in the first week of November compared to the same period last year, according to ecommerce operator G Market.
 
Local governments disinfected public transportation by hot-steaming fabric seats on subways and inspecting bedbug-prone areas, such as gosiwon, or cheap studio apartments for students.
 
Suspected reports of such bedbugs are continuing, with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency confirming 46 cases in the third week of December. A total of 185 cases were confirmed by local authorities as of the first week of December, according to government data.
 

BY CHO JUNG-WOO [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]





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