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Korean J Parasitol. 2000 Sep;38(3):119-38.

Unstable vivax malaria in Korea.

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Institute of Tropical Medicine, College of Medicine, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.


Korean vivax malaria had been prevalent for longtime throughout the country with low endemicity. As a result of the Korean war (1950-1953), malaria became epidemic. In 1959-1969 when the National Malaria Eradication Service (NMES) was implemented, malaria rates declined, with low endemicity in the south-west and south plain areas and high endemic foci in north Kyongsangbuk-do (province) and north and east Kyonggi-do. NMES activities greatly contributed in accelerating the control and later eradication of malaria. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) was designated malaria free in 1979. However, malaria re-emerged in 1993 and an outbreak occurred in north Kyonggi-do and north-west Kangwon-do (in and/or near the Demilitarized Zone, DMZ), bordering North Korea. It has been postulated that most of the malaria cases resulted from bites of sporozoite-infected females of An. sinensis dispersed from North Korea across the DMZ. Judging from epidemiological and socio-ecological factors, vivax malaria would not be possible to be endemic in South Korea. Historical data show that vivax malaria in Korea is a typical unstable malaria. Epidemics may occur when environmental, socio-economical, and/or political factors change in favor to malaria transmission, and when such factors change to normal conditions malaria rates become low and may disappear. Passive case detection is a most feasible and recommendable control measure against the unstable vivax malaria in Korea in cost-effect point of view.

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