Immunization and Health Issues
IMMUNIZATIONS should be up-to-date for all family members, particularly for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio (DTP) and typhoid, although no vaccinations are required to enter South Korea.
The following vaccinations are recommended but are not mandatory:
Hepatitis A can be contracted through food and water. Given the lack of enforcement of sanitation rules prevalent in some eating establishments, vaccination again Hepatitis A is highly recommended.
Hepatitis B can be contracted from physical contact or from exposure to blood (for example, health-care workers). Vaccination is recommended if you may be exposed through medical treatment, if you are staying in Korea for longer than six months or if you may have sexual contact with the local population.
Japanese Encephalitis can result from mosquito bites. Vaccination required only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis
Tuberculosis still occurs in Korea and it is advisable to have a regular skin test.
2016 Update: Foreign nationals from designated country are required to undergo TB testing. For more details, see the K4E Mandatory TB Test info page.
In 2014, South Korea is reported to have the highest rate of tuberculosis among OECD countries. This is a legacy of the Korean War and the years following it when the majority of the population was exposed to TB. The Korea Institute of Tuberculosis has indicated that many of the cases today are a reactivation of old infections that occurred decades ago.
A yearly flu vaccine is recommended, particularly for those with asthma and other respiratory problems, who may be particular vulnerable due to the levels of pollution and the yearly chemically tainted yellow dust from China.
Before coming to Korea, you may consider boosting your immune system with a good vitamin/mineral supplement. If you take supplements, you may want to make sure to bring a good supply of your preferred brand with you. Some foreign brands are either imported or packaged/distributed in Korea. Check the company’s website to see if they can be found or are distributed in South Korea.
HIV Test: Since 1989, all foreign residents wanting to stay in South Korea without their spouse for 91 days or more are required to undergo an HIV test. ESL teachers (E2 Visa)** and Foreign Workers must also be tested either prior to their arrival in Korea or within three months. The number of people with HIV or AIDS is very low and the perception that foreigners are the carriers is still prevalent. Non-Korean citizens diagnosed with either HIV or AIDS are likely to have their visa (work permit) cancelled and be required to leave the country; those diagnosed when applying to come to Korea will generally be refused admittance.
**HIV/Aids testing for E2 visa holders to stop: In 2016, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea recommended the government stop its mandatory HIV testing of foreign English teachers, thus supporting an earlier decision by UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that ruled against this policy in Korea. That said, K4E has had reports that foreign teachers are still being required to take these tests to keep their jobs. Although the NHRCK rendered its decision in September, there was still no mention of it on the commission's website as of 6 October 2016, according to the Korea Herald.
- The air pollution in Korea can exacerbate cardiopulmonary conditions such as asthma or bring about respiratory allergies
- The yellow sand (dust) which is most prevalent in the spring can be problematic for those with respiratory problems and can also cause ailments such as pinkeye in some people.
- Dry winters, unsanitary practices, crowded living conditions and public transportation are among the factors that contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistant strains of common illnesses as well as colds/flus.
- Bronchitis and pulmonary infections are common side effects of colds and flus.
- Car accidents either involving other cars and/or pedestrians are another health risk so make sure to wear seatbelts at all times and to be vigilant when walking.
- If you are Rhesus Negative (O-,A-, B-, AB-), not that these blood types are rare in Korea (although there are more Korean with Rh negative blood these days) and that, if you need blood, it may be difficult to get. You may want to arrange to have your own blood taken regularly if you can find storage. You may consider registering with one of the local groups set up to secure stable blood supplies. The one create by foreign nationals is Blood Connections on Google Groups. Prior to your departure, you might also want to check with your country's blood services authority to find out if blood can be sent to you in Korea.
Editor's Note: The information above is based on the information K4E has available at the time of writing. Given how difficult it is to obtain clear and complete information in Korea as well as how quickly rules can change, please see this as a guide and do follow-up with the appropriate Korean government bodies to confirm its accuracy and/or to get the most current answers. K4E would appreciate your feedback should you find out that our information is out-of-date. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated on 2016-10-16
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