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Korea's Bed Bugs Phobia
  • By Seo Ji-min, reporter
  • 승인 2023.11.20 23:46
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▲ On the 19th of last month, officials from a quarantine company are disinfecting the dormitory of Keimyung University in Dalseo- gu, Daegu to exterminate bedbugs (Source: Oh My News)

Recently, bed bugs have appeared in various parts of Korea, raising citizens' anxiety. Bed bugs are pests that suck human blood, and they usually seek out warm places at night. They do not transmit infectious diseases, but if bitten, they can cause severe itching and skin infections. In the 1960s, in Korea, bed bugs were so common that there was a saying, "I can't sleep on the train because of bedbugs." However, after the government- led campaign to eradicate bed bugs nationwide, it had succeeded in completely eradicating bedbugs and maintained its title of 'a bed bug free country' for more than half a century. However, the number of reported bed bugs has increased rapidly in Seoul and Incheon, and according to the government's Joint Countermeasures Headquarters, the number of suspected bed bugs reported in 17 cities and provinces nationwide reached 30 by the 6th. It is not known exactly why bed bugs appeared in Korea again, but there are observations that bed bugs may have traveled in the luggage of foreign tourists who entered the country after the COVID- 19 pandemic, or when international courier services were activated, and bed bugs may have spread through parcel boxes across the country.

On the 19th of last month, a student was reported to have been bitten by a bed bug at the dormitory of Keimyung University in Dalseo- gu, Daegu. The university began emergency disinfection, and afterwards, Daegu City decided to form and operate a joint task force with nine local health centers. In addition, bed bugs continued to be reported at joint accommodation facilities such as accommodations for studying for exams in Bucheon, Gyeonggi- do, and Namdaemun Dosshouse Village in Jung- gu, Seoul. After a series of reports of the appearance of bed bugs, citizens expressed concern about the spread of bed bugs, such as, "I'm afraid to sit in public transportation seats because I'm worried that bedbugs will move on to me," and, "I heard that bed bugs will spread quickly, so I'm concerned that they will spread to my house." Recognizing the seriousness, the government mobilized 10 ministries, including the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, to launch a joint countermeasure headquarters for bed bugs on the 3rd to respond at the national level, and local governments across the country are also making all- out efforts to eradicate bed bugs by conducting joint inspections and disinfection work around accommodations and public facilities that are likely to emerge

Amid such fear of bed bugs, fake news that has not been confirmed on SNS is spreading, adding to confusion among citizens. On the 5th, a post was posted on the online community, saying, "A bed bug was found at the distribution center in Coupang," sparking controversy over the boycott. In response, Coupang said on the 8th, "False rumors are spreading through some SNSs. The entire logistics business has been thoroughly managed through regular disinfection by specialized companies. We have asked the police to investigate the first person who had spread false information and those who continue to spread false rumors," filing a complaint against the unnamed disseminator for violating the Information and Communication Network Act.

Meanwhile, amid reports of bedbugs across the country and the spread of the 'Bed bug phobia,' sales of products related to eradicating bed bugs also surged. According to '11st', as of the 7th, sales of mite remover increased 559.7% year- on- year and sales of bedding vacuum cleaners increased 63.9%, and according to 'Gmarket,' sales of bed bug repellent rose 852%, sales of bedding vacuum cleaners increased 740%, and sales of bed covers for blocking bed bugs increased 110%. In response to this phenomenon, a Gmarket official said, "Last year, demand for products such as bed bug traps, which were not even sold, also increased significantly. Recently, bed bugs have been found across the country, and anxiety seems to have increased among citizens."

Um Hoon- sik, a senior researcher at the Korea Disease Control Association, explained, "Since bedbugs, which have recently reappeared, are not harmful to spreading infectious diseases or fatal to the human body, it is important to deal with them early and get help from specialized companies." With the untimely appearance of bed bugs, citizens' fear is growing day by day. However, the constant number of calls to local health centers, such as asking them to check if they are bed bugs after being bitten by a bug or whether they can do preventive quarantine, also becomes a problem for interfering with the general administrative work of public health centers. It seems important to follow basic quarantine rules rather than overreacting due to excessive anxiety and fear of the appearance of bed bugs.

By Seo Ji-min, reporter  jmseo1215@naver.com

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