South Korean government has tightened monitoring of foreign nationals travelling from tuberculosis high-risk countries after the number of foreigners in Korea who are diagnosed with the infectious disease nearly tripled in the past five years.
According to an annual report on tuberculosis patients for 2014 by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of foreign nationals contracted tuberculosis jumped 2.9 times from 637 patients in 2009 to 1,858 patients in 2014. Male patients accounted for 63.0 percent of total foreign tuberculosis patients in 2014. By age group, those in their 20s represented 34.2 percent of the total, followed by 19.7 percent in their 30s, 18.1 percent in their 50s, 17.3 percent in their 40s and 6.5 percent in their 60s.
With the steady growth in the number of foreign tuberculosis patients in the country, the country’s CDC together with the Ministry of Justice has tightened monitoring of foreigners travelling to Korea, said the center. The justice ministry requires foreigners from tuberculosis high-risk countries to submit personal medical records issued by hospitals approved by Korea’s overseas diplomatic offices if the visitors wish to obtain a long-term visa to stay for 91 days or longer. A high-risk tuberculosis country refers to a nation with more than 50 tuberculosis patients per 100,000 people.
If a foreigner contracts tuberculosis on Korean soil, the patient will get prompt treatment. But if the person refuses or stops tuberculosis treatment, he or she will be classified under the special tuberculosis control group. Those under the group should leave Korea once they are fully cured, and they must submit a medical report when applying for a new visa to re-enter Korea. Foreign tuberculosis patients staying legally in Korea will be able to receive treatment at public health centers without risk of deportation if they visit the immigration office to fill out a form to get treatment.