Korea claims it has first bed bug case in 20 years

by nobugsonme on January 20, 2009 · 1 comment

in australia, bed bug blame game, bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, bed bugs and travel, spread of bed bugs

The Korea Times reports that in December 2007, researchers claim they found the first bed bug sighted in Korea in 20 years.  And they say it must have come from America, perhaps with a recent transplant from New Jersey.

Renee of New York vs. Bed Bugs does a good job of clarifying some other possible scenarios.

Someone who I believe to be the neighbor of this “first Korean bed bug victim” came onto our Bedbugger forums in December 2007.  The poster, named hegemon1, was concerned about catching bed bugs from the neighbor — who had a confirmed case of bed bugs.  This was considered so rare in Korea, hegemon1 told us university researchers were looking into the puzzling case.

Interestingly, although the researchers told her this was the first known case of bed bugs in Korea, hegemon1 found at least one Korean exterminator who had claimed to have previously killed bed bugs several times:

The fumigator has prior experience eliminating bedbugs from the rooms of other Americans who have brought bugs with them to Korea.

Always Americans, huh?

hegemon1 said her entire building was being sprayed, but only the foreign students’ rooms. Not the rooms of native-born Koreans.

And if this is true, it is where the researchers’ working theory (“maybe the woman brought bed bugs from New Jersey”) turned a xenophobic corner (“only the apartments in the building where foreigners reside could also become infested”).

Despite any cultural, linguistic, or political differences, I believe Americans and Koreans have the same kind of blood.  That, my friends, is what bed bugs are after.  They don’t check passports.

The researchers cited in the Korea Times said, they thought this case happened because an “American bedbug that penetrated through the quarantine system.”  I am not sure what kind of quarantine Korea has in place, but unless it involves extreme measures being taken with luggage and human travelers alike, it won’t keep bed bugs out of Korea (that is, assuming for a moment that there weren’t bed bugs in Korea to begin with; that’s a big “if,” and I refer you to Renee for more on that).

I don’t doubt that bed bugs can travel, and that moving from one place to another can assist them in their spread.  I think we all have to admit it is possible to carry bed bugs from one place to another.  After all, a good number of people do claim to have gotten bed bugs from hotels.  They can crawl into luggage, come out on the other end, and infest your new digs.  People “move” bed bugs from one apartment to another, and it’s conceivable they do it across borders and oceans all the time.

But they also migrate within buildings.  Not treating the residences of native citizens living in the same building as foreigners (who are being treated for bed bugs) shows a high level of ignorance about how bed bugs behave.

Given this attitude, even if bed bugs were not a Korean problem, they surely have now become one.

The silliness here is that bed bugs are spreading everywhere.  And everyone wants to think the “source” is outside their own borders. Some New Yorkers may think they got bed bugs from India, Mexico, or Poland, Thais think they got bed bugs from American backpackers, Australians blame the influx of foreigners who visited the Sydney Olympics, Koreans blame Americans.

Where does it end?!?

The bed bug blame game is a pointless waste of time.

The only thing to do about bed bugs is try and halt their spread.   And to share information — good information — about the real enemy: not people, bed bugs.

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