SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Korea Bizwire) – Some 50,000 foreign laborers make their way to Korea each year in search of the “Korean Dream”, but a recent study revealed that these laborers, who are often exposed to substandard working and living conditions, have grown more vulnerable to tuberculosis than the general population.
According to the Korean National Tuberculosis Association, the number of foreigners diagnosed with TB more than tripled from 637 in 2009 to 1,944 in 2015, accounting for 5 percent of all tuberculosis patients in South Korea. The actual number is likely much higher, taking into consideration that roughly 200,000 illegal immigrants are unaccounted for in the official statistics, the association said.
In response to the health concerns, the Human Resources Development Service of Korea and the KNTA signed a business agreement Tuesday to establish a TB patient management system, specific for foreign TB patients, that will provide a more efficient and effective system for the examination and treatment of the disease.
Foreigners diagnosed with TB shortly after entering the country will receive treatment at a local hospital for a certain period of time until their departure, while workers who fall sick during their employment sojourn will be provide treatment from the KNTA TB treatment center for foreigners.
Meanwhile, HRD Korea will boost its training and promotion efforts for TB prevention for overseas laborers and their employees.
“We’ll be sending a team of TB experts, HRD Korea and recruitment training officials to countries dispatching workers to Korea, to investigate local TB screening programs and treatment,” said HRD Korea president Park Young-bum. “We’ll establish a system that not only protects the health of our citizens but also foreign workers.”
The number of foreign residents in Korea has tripled over the past decade to 1.71 million in 2015. Roughly 1 million, aged 15 and above, were economically active as of May 2016.
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)