SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is ramping up pest control measures and inspections to prevent the spread of bedbugs after reports of suspected infestations at some saunas and residential facilities, officials said Wednesday.
The small, flat oval insects have caused a panic in France, where reports of outbreaks on trains and in movie theaters have raised worries about the impact on tourism and the Paris Olympics, which start in less than a year. Britain too has seen a jump in enquiries about the pests.
In South Korea, about 30 cases of suspected infestations have been reported nationwide, including at a traditional Korean spa called “jjimjilbang” in Incheon, west of Seoul, and a college dorm in the southeastern city of Daegu, officials said.
The prime minister’s office on Tuesday launched a four-week campaign with inspections of public facilities and pest control measures.
“Public anxiety is inevitable as reports continue to come in,” Park Ku-yeon, first deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, who heads the team in change of the campaign, told a meeting.
Park singled out small dorm rooms known as “gosiwon” and single-room households as most vulnerable, calling for support from district authorities.
The wingless insects hide in mattresses and bedding and feed on blood, typically biting at night.
South Korea’s hotel and tour industry is stepping up vigilance with distribution of repellent and training for staff.
Lotte Hotels and Resorts, a hospitality arm of Lotte Corp., said it had not found any infestations but issued guidelines to all branches and that it plans to disinfect bedding, mattresses, carpets and sofas.
“We’re trying to take strong precautionary steps,” a Lotte Hotel official told Reuters.
Authorities in the capital, Seoul, said metro operators would disinfect trains more frequently and gradually replace fabric seats with plastic ones.
Drivers have to disinfect their taxis twice a day and control measures are also being implemented on buses.