Health Risks in South Korea



Many foreigners are drawn to South Korea because of its warm people, magnificent culture and economic promise.

However, just like any destination in the world, it will not come without health risks, though most expats have no problem managing the combined country's obligatory national healthcare insurance scheme and the added security of private health insurance.

In this country, mosquito-borne diseases constitute a good percentage of these risks, and these include malaria, dengue and Japanese B encephalitis, especially in the rural regions. Bird flu is another illness that may be noted in South Korea from time to time, although no human infections have been recorded. To be sure, all poultry products should be cooked thoroughly before they are eaten. In the northern parts of Kyonggi and Kangwon, malaria could be a problem so expats who might be headed there should discuss with a travel medicine specialist what precautions to take.

Water is safe to drink even from the tap. Food is safe as well, including those sold by sidewalk vendors. Health risks through contaminated food and water are not prevalent in the country. However, it is important to eat only thoroughly cooked meat or seafood as a precaution against bird flu even as human infections have not been noted so far.

There are no alarming health risks as of this time, but it is always wise to take a step ahead by employing preventive measures prior to arrival, usually four to six weeks before travel. In case of illness, expats will feel secure seeking medical care from the country's world-class hospitals and medical practitioners. And with the help of international health insurance and the country's compulsory national healthcare scheme, no one will have to feel unsafe as an expat.