mers in korea top

As you may have heard, there’s an epidemic in South Korea. Since last month, more than 150 people have contracted the deadly MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus, among whom 19 have died.

As a result, foreign tourists in South Korea have been leaving the country in droves, and the usually-thriving tourism industry has been suffering. To try and help alleviate matters, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has made a somewhat unusual decision: they will pay tourists US$3,000 if they contract MERS while in South Korea.

It is currently believed that one 68-year-old South Korean man who returned from a trip to four Middle Eastern countries is the cause of the MERS outbreak. However, locating this “patient zero” has done little to help; South Korea’s economy has come to a stand-still with thousands under quarantine and nearly 3,000 schools closed due to fears of the disease spreading.

And that’s not all. According to Kim Chong, the country’s vice minister of tourism, over 100,000 foreign tourists have canceled their trips to South Korea. This is terrible news for a country that typically sees more than a million foreign tourists cross its borders on an average month.

To try to encourage tourists not to abandon their plans to visit South Korea, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued a statement on June 15 saying that they would pay $3,000 in travel fees and medical bills to any foreign tourist who becomes infected by MERS while in South Korea. The new policy doesn’t take effect until June 22 however, so be sure not to get sick until then!

Now, this may sound like a crazy plan on the surface of it – getting $3,000 for contracting a disease with a mortality rate of 35% doesn’t seem like the best deal in the world. But to be fair, so far there have been no confirmed cases of MERS outside of any hospitals. So as long as you don’t visit a hospital for any reason while in South Korea, chances are you’d be fine. But is it a risk you’d be willing to take?

What do you think? Would the $3,000 make a difference in your travel plans?

Source: Record China via Yahoo! Japan News, CNN (1, 2), Yahoo! News
Featured/top image: Flickr (Pictures of Money)