Health in South Korea

Life expectancy has been rising rapidly and South Korea ranked 11th in the world for life expectancy in 2016.[1] South Korea has among the lowest HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate in the world, with just 0.1% of the population being infected, significantly lower than the U.S. at 0.6%, France's 0.4%, and the UK's 0.3% prevalence rate. South Korea ranked highest in influenza vaccination in Asia at 311 vaccines per 1,000 people.[2] A new measure of expected human capital calculated for 195 countries from 1920 to 2016 and defined for each birth cohort as the expected years lived from age 20 to 64 years and adjusted for educational attainment, learning or education quality, and functional health status was published by the Lancet in September 2018. South Korea had the sixth highest level of expected human capital with 26 health, education, and learning-adjusted expected years lived between age 20 and 64 years. [3]

Obesity has been consistently among the world's lowest - only 3% of the population were obese, which was the second lowest in the OECD, compared to over 30% in the U.S. or 23% in the UK.[4] As a result, mortality from cardiovascular disease was the fourth lowest in the OECD.[5][6]

Lee Jong-wook, former director-general of the World Health Organization, who dedicated his work to combating tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, along with eradicating polio.

Health issuesEdit


The cancer treatment in South Korea is regarded to be one of the best in the world with South Korea also having the highest cancer survival rate.[7][8]


Suicide in South Korea is a serious and widespread problem. The suicide rate was the highest in the OECD in 2012 (29.1 deaths per 100,000 people).[9] Lithuania is ranked first, but is not an OECD member state as of September 2016.[10]



According to the WHO in 2015, the age standardized prevalence of tobacco smoking in the Republic of South Korea is 49.8%.[11] Starting on January 1, 2015, the Ministry of Health banned smoking in cafés, restaurants, and bars.[12] Facilities, such as government offices, public institutions, public transport facilities and schools have become smoke-free zones.[12] In 1986, the Republic of Korea mandated tobacco manufactures to include warnings on cigarette packages.[12] The violation against the smoke policy include a fine, which is less than 100 thousand won.[13]

Drinking alcoholEdit

South Korea is No. 1 in hard liquor consumption in the world

According to the World Health Organization, South Koreans rank No. 28 in alcohol consumption over all (2015) and No. 22 in the OECD (2013).[14][15] According to Euromonitor data, it is number 1 in hard-liquor consumption (2013).[16][17][18] Age-standardized death rate of liver cirrhosis for male in South Korea is 20.6% of which 70.5% is attributed to alcohol.[19] Prevalence of alcohol use disorders (including alcohol dependence and harmful use of alcohol) is 10.3% of male in South Korea, more than twice of 4.6% of Western Pacific Region.[19]

Infectious diseaseEdit

An outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) occurred in South Korea in May 2015 by a Korean who visited the Middle East and carried the MERS virus to Korea. Seven months later, the government officially declared that the outbreak was over.[20]

Air pollutionEdit

South Korea near bottom of world survey of air quality
   Very Unhealthy
   Unhealthy for sensitive groups

According to the Environmental Performance Index 2016, South Korea ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in terms of air quality. More than 50 percent of the populations in South Korea exposed to dangerous levels of fine dust.[21]


South Korea ranks last place among OECD countries for tuberculosis. Its three major indexes: incidence rate, prevalence rate and death rate are the worst among the OECD countries since 1996 when South Korea became a member of OECD.[22]

2014 Tuberculosis statistics - OECD (per 100,000 person) [22]
Rank Incidence rate Prevalence rate Death rate
Country Value Country Value Country Value
1   South Korea 86.0   South Korea 101.0   South Korea 3.8
2   Portugal 25.0   Portugal 29.0   Estonia 2.1
3   Mexico
21.0   Mexico 27.0   Japan 1.8
Average 12.0 Average 14.8 Average 0.7

Chronic diseaseEdit

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, chronic illness account for the majority of diseases in South Korea, a condition exacerbated by the health care system’s focus on treatment rather than prevention. The incidence of chronic disease in South Korea hovers around 24 percent. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) rate of prevalence at the end of 2003 was less than 0.1 percent. In 2001 central government expenditures on health care accounted for about 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).[23] South Korea is experiencing a growing elderly population, which leads to an increase in chronic degenerative diseases. The proportion of the population over 65 is expected to rise from 13% in 2014 to 38% in 2050. Majority of health care professionals treat patients on curative, rather than preventive treatments, because of the lack of financial incentives for preventive treatments.[24]

Unequal distribution of physiciansEdit

There are regional disparities between urban and rural areas for health professionals. The number of primary care doctors in cities is 37.3% higher than in rural areas, and the problem is growing because younger physicians are choosing to practice in the cities.[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "World Health Statistics 2016: Monitoring health for the SDGs". WHO. Archived from the original on May 23, 2016.
  2. ^ "RI lags behind in flu vaccination rate". The Jakarta Post. May 24, 2011.
  3. ^ Lim, Stephen; et, al. "Measuring human capital: a systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016". Lancet. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  4. ^ Anon (2005). OECD Factbook: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. ISBN 978-92-64-01869-3.
  5. ^ "Health at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators | READ online".
  6. ^ "OBESITY Update" (PDF). OECD. June 2014.
  7. ^ OECD: Health at a Glance 2019, pages 138-143.
  8. ^ Nam Kyung-don: S. Korea ranks among top OECD member countries in the treatment of cancer: data, The Korea Herald, November 21, 2019.
  9. ^ "Suicide rates". OECD. 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "World Health Statistics 2016: Monitoring health for the SDGs". WHO. 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016. Page 63. WHO member states with a population of less than 250,000 are not included in the statistics.
  11. ^ "WHO | World Health Organization". Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  12. ^ a b c "Republic of Korea: Smoking ban extended | WHO FCTC Implementation Database". Archived from the original on September 18, 2015. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  13. ^ "국가법령정보센터". (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  14. ^ "Alcohol, total per capita (15+) consumption (in litres of pure alcohol), projections to 2025". WHO. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  15. ^ "Non-Medical Determinants of Health: Alcohol consumption". OECD. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  16. ^ "South Koreans Slam Down 11.2 Shots of Hard Liquor Each Week". Time. February 11, 2014.
  17. ^ "South Koreans drink twice as much liquor as Russians and more than four times as much as Americans". Quartz. December 3, 2016.
  18. ^ "Here Are The Countries That Drink The Most Hard Liquor". Business Insider. February 10, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "country profiles" (PDF). World Health Organization.
  20. ^ "South Korea finally MERS-free". Science | AAAS. 2015-12-23. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  21. ^ "South Korea near bottom of world survey of air quality". The Korea Herald. May 16, 2016. South Korea ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in terms of air quality, the Environmental Performance Index 2016 rankings showed Monday. ... A report said that 1.3 billion people exposed to poor air quality lived in East Asian countries, with more than 50 percent of the populations in South Korea and China exposed to dangerous levels of fine dust.
  22. ^ a b "'결핵 후진국' 한국, 환자가 급증한 이유는" ["Tuberculosis backward country" South Korea, The reason for the surge of patients]. March 25, 2017. Archived from the original on August 31, 2016.
  23. ^ South Korea country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (May 2005). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  24. ^ "Song, Y. J. (2009). The South Korean Health Care System. International Medical Community, 52(3), 206-209. doi:February 25, 2014"
  25. ^ Lee, J (2003). Health care reform in South Korea: Success or Failure?.93(1), 44-51. doi:March 3, 2014