Shrinking the Malaria Map

UCSF Global Health Group’s Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI)

Republic of Korea

The Republic of Korea, which was malaria-free from 1979 to 1993, is seeking to eliminate malaria for the second time by 2017.

The Republic of Korea is a densely populated country that is categorized in the elimination phase by the World Health Organization (WHO). The entire Korean Peninsula was declared free of malaria in 1979 by WHO, but in 1993, malaria reemerged and cases in the Republic of Korea increased rapidly, peaking in 2000 at 4,142. Since then, the Republic of Korea has achieved an 87% decline in cases, reporting just 560 local cases in 2014. Plasmodium vivax is the only malaria parasite present in the Korean Peninsula, causing unstable seasonal transmission from May through October, with 81% of cases occurring from June through September. Adult males serving in the military are at greatest risk for malaria since most transmission occurs along the length of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) bordering the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most cases, both military and civilian, are concentrated in the northern provinces of Gangwon and Gyeonggi, as well as the Incheon Metropolitan Area.

The significant decline in cases since 2000, when the Republic of Korea launched its malaria elimination campaign, can be attributed to effective chemoprophylaxis for military personnel, the advent of a web-based surveillance and epidemic detection and response system, and improved stratification and identification of risk areas. In 2009, the Republic of Korea joined the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN).

In 2010, a new Action Plan for Malaria Elimination was implemented with a national elimination goal of 2015. Strategies included: 1) reinforcement of control and prevention activities among military forces through increased collaboration with the Department of Defense; 2) intensification of epidemiological surveillance and rapid diagnosis in high-risk areas; 3) increased diagnostic capacity with quality assurance; 4) utilization of mapping to improve surveillance and case investigation; 5) improving collaboration with communities and medical institutions; and 6) promoting malaria control activities in neighboring DPRK to prevent importation. Since the Action Plan was launched, the Republic of Korea has experienced a 73% decrease in annual malaria cases. However, in 2014, the malaria program pushed its elimination goal to 2017 in order to address the increasing threat of importation from DPRK through additional strengthening of surveillance, case investigation, and vector control coverage.

560 # of cases (2014)
Elimination goal
Income level

Country briefing

Reported cases
Reported cases
P vivax transmission limit (2010)
P vivax transmission limit (2010)

Challenges to elimination