Expats in Korea may be asked to donate their blood in order to replenish low stocks of certain blood types in Korea.
At present, the nation faces a serious deficit of blood type rhesus negative, a type that is very rare in people of Asian descent. For the majority of ethnicities, rhesus negative blood can be found in at least 10 percent of the population. However, in some nationalities, this statistic is higher, with 15% of people from the USA and 17% of people from the United Kingdom possessing this type of blood. It is for this reason that expats in Korea may hold the key to saving hundreds of lives.
Although the shortage of Rhesus negative blood types has always been an issue in Korea, the potential consequences of a shortage in supply have recently been highlighted to the media as a result of the efforts of a man who lost his child as a result of an insufficient number of B negative blood platelets. Jay John’s son, Jeon Yoo-woon, died in April this year after the authorities were unable to provide sufficient blood to help his condition. Jay John himself managed to secure over 1000 expatriate donors but many of them were unable to donate because of Korea’s strict eligibility rules regarding who can donate. Expats, for example, who have lived in Europe within the last five years are not permitted to donate blood because of the variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease commonly known as mad cow disease.
Jeon Yoo-woon’s sad story has been heavily covered in the media and has prompted outrage at the current system. In response to Jay John’s case the ministry of health in Korea, together with the Korean Red Cross have started to initiate plans to prevent the situation from reoccurring in the future:
“We plan on creating a database of people who can donate rare blood types. There are 17,000 people with rare blood types who have donated blood, so we plan to obtain consents and make a database,” said a ministry official.
“Up until now, when someone needed rare blood, they had to contact a volunteer community, where members would be alerted to donate blood. Once implemented, the Korea Red Cross will assume the responsibility of contacting people,” he said.