Achievements in and Challenges of Tuberculosis Control in South Korea

Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Nov;21(11):1913-20. doi: 10.3201/eid2111.141894.


After the Korean War (1950-1953), nearly 6.5% of South Korea's population had active tuberculosis (TB). In response, South Korea implemented the National Tuberculosis Program in 1962. From 1965 to 1995, the prevalence of bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB in South Korea decreased from 940 to 219 cases per 100,000 population. Astounding economic growth might have contributed to this result; however, TB incidence in South Korea remains the highest among high-income countries. The rate of decrease in TB incidence seems to have slowed over the past 15 years. A demographic shift toward an older population, many of whom have latent TB and various concurrent conditions, is challenging TB control efforts in South Korea. The increasing number of immigrants also plays a part in the prolonged battle against TB. A historical review of TB in South Korea provides an opportunity to understand national TB control efforts that are applicable to other parts of the world.

Keywords: Mycobacterium tuberculosis; South Korea; bacteria; control measures; demographics; public–private mix; tuberculosis.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Republic of Korea
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / economics
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control*