Korean dancer who toured Africa dies of malaria

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Korean dancer who toured Africa dies of malaria

A dancer who toured Africa with a traditional Korean folk music troupe died of malaria on Wednesday.

Kim Su-yeon, 27, was one of two performers in the 45-member troupe to contract the disease, and one of 11 members who had been given chloroquine, a malaria pill that is “not very effective in Africa,” said an official from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention who asked to be identified only as Im.

“The pills were prescribed by a village doctor before they left. The other 34 were given drugs before their departure by the National Medical Center,” Im said. “It would have been better if they had been given better information before this happened, because that information is not hard to get. It’s on our Web site.”

Im said the 11 performers given chloroquine were all from Namwon, where the National Center for Korean Folk Performing Arts is located. He said mefloquine is usually prescribed as a preventive against malaria.

“Doctors who have knowledge about disease control would have known that chloroquine was not the appropriate medication. Those in rural locations are not as reliable,” Im said.

The disease control center sent two officials to South Africa to warn and help Korean tourists visiting during the World Cup season about the dangers of malaria following the incident.

Kim started showing signs of malaria on June 3 but thought it was simply a cold. The day after she returned to Korea from Egypt on June 5, a hospital diagnosed her as suffering from the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, said Park Min-kwon from the Korean Culture and Information Service, which directed the Korean Culture Festival.

“Another member was also diagnosed with worse symptoms than Kim, but she’s doing better now,” Park said. “All 45 team members were given malaria pills before we left.”

Kim had performed with the troupe as it celebrated the World Cup with shows in South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey and Egypt from May 27 to June 3.

“She was very skilled and talented. It is such a shame to have something like this happen after we finished what was a great tour of the African continent,” Park said.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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