The Great Bedbug Battle of 2023: South Korea Declares War on Bedbugs

After Paris, South Korea became the latest victim of bedbugs as the tiny critters wreaked havoc on the birthplace of BTS. To get rid of the nuisance, South Korea declared war on bed beds.
Bedbug Infestation in South Korea

South Korea Declared a War on Bedbugs

The world hasn’t gotten over the Paris bedbug infestation yet, and now South Korea is reporting a new infestation. It became the latest country to declare war on bedbugs after a wave of outbreaks. South Korea declared a mission to rid of the bugs and placed university dorms, bathhouses, and train stations on high alert. Since the end of October, the country has reported thirty suspected or confirmed infestations, which prompted the government to announce a four-week-long campaign to rid of the bloodsucking nuisance.  

The country has always been practically free of bed bugs, with only nine infestations reported to the Korean Disease Control and Prevention since the year 2014. However, the sudden resurge of pests in the country which came right after reports of similar outbreaks in the United Kingdom and France and an increase in infestation cases in the United States, is raising alarm and panic among the members of the public. 

Pest Control vs Bedbug Infestation – South Korea Declared a War on Bedbugs

South Korea Declared a War on Bedbugs

Pest control firms have reported getting an overwhelming number of requests for help. To lend a helping hand, some websites have created sections dedicated to bedbug infestation. These websites offer their users a place to share helpful tips on how to deal with these dreadful pests. Some comments on the website resonate with the fear and confusion the public is feeling amid the bedbug infestation.  

Comments like “Should I throw away all electronics if I spot a bedbug,” and “If I put double-sided tape around my mattress, would that stop the bugs getting on me?” “I’d rather have Covid than bedbugs.” are swarming the website as the public tries to deal with the infestation. 

Bedbug Infestation in South Korea – Fear of Stigma 

According to experts, the current outbreak will possibly get worse before it gets better. Bedbugs are known not to carry or spread disease, however, itching from their bites is enough to make one lose sleep and get secondary skin infections if scratched too hard. Also being bitten by one of these insects is considered socially embarrassing. In a statement, a government official, who asked to keep their name private stated:

“It’s unclear, at this moment, if the number of bedbug cases will increase but some individuals may hesitate to report them to the government due to concerns over being stigmatized for hygiene reasons,”

The official also disclosed that currently, the government is working hand in hand with private pest control companies in order to gain a proper understanding of the situation as some individuals will not report the cases directly to authorities out of fear of stigma and negative impacts on their reputation or businesses. 

Due to the bedbug infestation in South Korea and of course, the stigma surrounding it, the South Korean government is growing so concerned that it is expediting the import of new types of pesticides in case the ones that are already available in the country fail to get rid the bedbug infestation. Meanwhile, the pest control companies say that they have been overwhelmed by the number of phone calls they are receiving for help on a regular basis. Eom Hae-won, CEO of Incheon-based pest control firm Choa Clean said:

“We received less than five calls a year related to bedbugs before, but nowadays, we get two to three calls every day,” 

According to Eom, as South Korea has had so few outbreaks in recent years, the local companies are neither experienced nor equipped enough to deal with this level of bedbug infestation and the available pesticides aren’t as effective. 

“So, we are collecting bedbugs for research and experimentation purposes,” Eom added 

Seoul Searching – Bedbugs Infestation in South Korea

Bedbug infestation

Bedbug infestation in South Korea is ringing alarm bells throughout the capital city of Seoul. However, to combat the infestation in Seoul, the government is launching a new “Bedbug Reporting and Management System” and a “Zero Bedbug City, Seoul” initiative under which the government says that they will inspect 3,174 bathhouses lodging facilities, and jjimjilbangs or Korean saunas for bedbug infestation. In a press release, the city government said:

“These special inspections will continue through the year-end holiday season, particularly in areas with a high concentration of accommodation and bathhouses, which are popular among foreign residents,” 

As South Korea declared war on bedbugs, the respective authorities from all over the country have sprung into action to rid the country of the infestation before it reaches the same intensity as the bedbug infestation in Paris. Park Yoo-mi, a senior health official in Seoul, addressed the bedbug infestation in South Korea and stated:

“While bedbugs do not transmit diseases, they are pests that cause discomfort, allergies, and psychological as well as economic harm due to their blood-feeding habits,”

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