The Blockchain Engineer Tracing a Different Kind of Bug

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  • Blockchain engineer Kang Jae-gu has become a hero by using tech skills to combat the bedbug resurgence in South Korea
  • Bedbugs have unexpectedly returned to the country, following global outbreaks, most notably in Paris.
  • Kang’s data-driven approach has helped map the outbreak

In the wake of a bedbug resurgence in South Korea, 29-year-old blockchain engineer Kang Jae-gu has become an unlikely hero by leveraging his tech skills to combat the bloodsucking pests. The self-proclaimed insectophobe has found himself tackling a very different kind of bug as bedbugs have made an unexpected comeback in the country following outbreaks elsewhere in the world, most notably Paris. Since the pandemic’s wane, travel resurgence has led to over 100 reported cases of bedbug infestations since late November, causing public panic and media frenzy, and leading Kang to tackle the critters with data.

Kang Mapping The Outbreak

Kang is the creator of the website, which offers an interactive map showcasing reported infestations across the country, coupled with real-time news stories on the bedbug outbreak. Kang’s site has become a go-to resource, attracting up to 50,000 visitors daily—a significant uptick from its initial launch.

Sporting a calming olive-green color scheme intended to provide “peace of mind,” the blockchain developer’s creation takes a lighthearted approach to a serious issue, although he admits that dealing with bug images for the website still gives him “goosebumps.”

South Korea’s bedbug invasion is not an isolated incident, as similar outbreaks have plagued cities worldwide, including Paris, which is gearing up to host the Olympic Games. The alarm has also been raised in Britain and Algeria, although these countries have not seen anything on the scale of France.

Authorities Taking Steps

In South Korea, the infestations have hit cramped living spaces the hardest, with 44 percent of reported cases occurring in gosiwon—tiny, inexpensive housing units. Student dormitories, public bathhouses, and the notably compact jjokbang housing units have also been affected.

Authorities are mobilizing to address the issue, with Seoul city government allocating $500,000 to safeguard vulnerable residents in small housing units. Incheon International Airport is set to install high-temperature steam heaters to prevent bug entry, and Seoul has approved the use of Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, against bedbugs.

As South Korea defines bedbugs as a significant public health issue, Kang’s data-driven initiative aligns with the broader effort to take proactive measures against the invasion, turning a tech solution into a success story. Fortunately for the insectophobe, while South Korea may be in the grip of a bed bug wave, his website has so far remained bug-free.