Despite renewed government efforts to bring South Korea’s historically elevated rate of tuberculosis under control, the nation still has the highest incidence rate of the disease among the world’s wealthiest countries – nations that belong to the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
According to data released in October by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and the Korean National Tuberculosis Association, the nation’s incidence rate of tuberculosis was 70 out of 100,000 in 2018. Five people died of the disease every day last year. Among other OECD members, the TB incidence average was only 11.1 per 100,000.
The burden of tuberculosis in South Korea today is primarily a legacy of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, when poverty, cramped living conditions, and limited medical treatment created ideal conditions for TB bacteria to spread. Since then, the disease has remained a persistent public health threat in the country.