Tuberculosis among dislocated North Koreans entering Republic of Korea since 1999

Chang Min Choi, Jung Hee June, Cheol In Kang, Jung Tak Park, Soo Yon Oh, Jin Beom Lee, Chang Hoon Lee, Jae Joon Yim, Hee Jin Kim

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The collapse of North Korea's public health system has increased the development of tuberculosis (TB) in its populace. This study investigated the prevalence of active and latent TB infection (LTBI) in such people who have settled in the Republic of Korea since 1999. From 1999 to August 2006, 7,722 dislocated North Koreans entered the Republic of Korea and all were screened immediately for active TB. Demographic and clinical characteristics were reviewed from the official records of the Settlement Support Office for Dislocated North Koreans, based in the Ministry of Unification. Of 7,722 participants, 87 (1.13%) were diagnosed with active TB from 1999 to August 2006. Of these, 78 (90%) had pulmonary TB. Checking for the presence of a Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) scar and tuberculin skin test has been performed in all dislocated North Koreans since November 2005. Of 1,112 participants, BCG vaccination scars were found in 67.4%. The tuberculin-positive rate using two tuberculin unit doses of the purified protein derivative RT23 (≥10 mm in diameter) was 81.5%. The prevalence of active TB and LTBI in dislocated North Koreans was high. Because this group bears a disproportionate burden of TB, we need to initiate a specific control programme and to plan for the impact of this disease in the Republic of Korea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-967
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Korean Medical Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Dislocated North Korean
  • Latent TB infection
  • Refugees
  • Tuberculosis

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