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When the yellow dust gets as bad as it was on Saturday, many South Korean public workers wear masks to avoid inhaling the fine sand.
When the yellow dust gets as bad as it was on Saturday, many South Korean public workers wear masks to avoid inhaling the fine sand. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

SEOUL — Having asthma wouldn’t necessarily prevent family members from traveling with the U.S. military to an assignment in South Korea, even with the annual yellow dust storms, according to medical officials.

“If you have asthma then there is [an] exceptional family member screening program in the United States,” said Lt. Col. Lee Hee-choon, preventative medicine consultant at the 18th Medical Command. “You’d have to go through that before coming to Korea.”

Medical officials screen family members to ensure there is adequate medical support at their next duty station. Anyone with a serious condition requiring a medical-center level of care usually won’t be sent to South Korea, Lee said.

“But they figure they’ve got a standing ‘brick-and-mortar’ health care facility” at the 121st Medical Hospital on Yongsan Garrison,” he said. “So they often send many people to Korea.”

While the dust storms won’t prevent people from coming here, Lee said, a severe-enough reaction might cause curtailment of the assignment.

Lee added that he hasn’t seen that severe a problem since joining the staff in January 1999.

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