SEOUL, Dec. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea will start checking industrial products as part of efforts to prevent red fire ants from entering the country, the government said Sunday.
Quarantine authorities said the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency and Korea Customs Service (KCS) have teamed up to check containers bringing in industrial goods from Guangdong Province in China. Inspections will begin this month and will be carried out for a year with containers arriving at the ports of Busan, Incheon and Pyeongtaek being screened randomly.
The move comes as the quarantine agency discovered colonies of fire ants at local ports with the insects suspected of having entered the country along with imported goods. In the past, inspections focused on agricultural and forestry-related products, but there have been growing calls to expand the quarantine effort to cover other shipments.
Most of the fire ants discovered in South Korea and Japan are suspected to have come from Guangdong region, with the province reporting large numbers of discoveries of the harmful insects.
Quarantine inspectors have checked all cargo containers carrying 32 types of goods for fire ants at local ports.
Red fire ants have the potential to disrupt the eco-system of a country, with its sting capable of causing severe allergic reactions, including breathing problems for people, and in severe cases can lead to death.
Officials said containers that have fire ants will be held in customs and thoroughly decontaminated to kill off the insects. Products that have been found to harbor the ants are to be destroyed as a precautionary step.
“Upwards to 1,600 containers from the Chinese province can be checked in this manner,” an official source said. Each port will be able to check several containers per day, although this will depend on various conditions.