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Health in South Korea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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.
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.

South Koreans have the right to universal healthcare, ranking first in the OECD for healthcare access.[1] Satisfaction of healthcare has been consistently among the highest in the world – South Korea was rated as the fourth most efficient healthcare system by Bloomberg.[2][3]

The quality of South Korean healthcare has been ranked as being among the world's best. It had the OECD's highest colorectal cancer survival rate at 72.8%, significantly ahead of Denmark's 55.5% or the UK's 54.5%. It ranked second in cervical cancer survival rate at 76.8%, significantly ahead of Germany's 64.5% or the U.S. at 62.2%.[4] Hemorrhagic stroke 30 day in-hospital mortality per 100 hospital discharges was the OECD's third lowest at 13.7 deaths, which was almost twice as low as the U.S. at 22.3 or France's 24 deaths. For Ischemic stroke, it ranked second at 3.4 deaths, which was almost a third of Australia's 9.4 or Canada's 9.7 deaths. South Korean hospitals ranked 4th for MRI units per capita and 6th for CT scanners per capita in the OECD. It also had the OECD's second largest number of hospital beds per 1000 people at 9.56 beds, which was over triple that of Sweden's 2.71, Canada's 2.75, the UK's 2.95, or the U.S. at 3.05 beds.[5]

Obesity in South Korea 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.[6] As a result, mortality from cardiovascular disease was the fourth lowest in the OECD.[7][8]

Life expectancy has been rising rapidly and South Korea ranked 11th in the world for life expectancy in 2016.[9] 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.[10]

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 persons).[11] Lithuania is ranked first, but is not an OECD member state as of September 2016.[12]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Average North Korean vs the Average South Korean - People Comparison


So far in our shows featuring the average person, we’ve focused on Europe and North America. Today we’re heading to Asia to compare what could be called a flourishing nation with a country that is usually given the epithet of ‘secret state.’ The two countries sit side by side, and yet today they share little in common. One nation is viewed as a threat to western democratic capitalist values, and the other an ally and exponent of those values. Separated by a demilitarized zone, it’s not often that the global public gets to see what happens north of the border. Even when we are given a glimpse inside the secretive nation, we are often told the reality was only a show, propaganda. Today we are going to take a look inside, in this episode of the Infographics Show, The average North Korean vs. the Average South Korean. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell button so that you can be part of our Notification Squad. According to a fact sheet created by the Korean Economic Institute of America, South’s Korea’s 51 million people are currently living in the 13th largest economy in the world based on purchasing power parity. That number is 1.93 trillion dollars. It’s GDP is 1.4 trillion dollars, putting South Korea in 11th place in the world for GDP. North Korea’s 25 million people will not be enjoying an economic boom anytime soon. It’s GDP, according to the CIA Factbook, was 25 billion dollars in 2015. Some sources say this number is lower. The country’s main industries are agriculture, mining, fishing and the services, while South Korea’s major industries cover more modern sectors such as electronics, automotive, shipbuilding, and petrochemicals. What this means in terms of wealth per capita, well, you can probably figure that out. The average wage in South Korea in 2016 according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was just over 32,000 U.S. dollars a year. This was taken by calculating the total wage bill in the country by the number of full-time employees. As the North Korean government doesn’t publish its salaries, it’s hard to know exactly what people get paid. According to North Korean Economy Watch, a high paid official in the country could earn as much as 1,000 dollars a month. In an article published in NPR, it was said many talented North Koreans working in good factory jobs were earning around 62 dollars a month. It also said the workers were doing relatively ok, and some were earning 100 dollars per month. This is certainly good when compared to the bottom rung of the ladder, with some reports saying many North Koreans earned as little as 2 or 3 dollars a month. If that is the case, how do they survive on such meager wages? For starters, North Korea claims that it is the world’s only tax free country, celebrating Tax Abolition Day on April 1st. Even if that’s true, many studies tell us that a large number of North Koreans battle with poverty. A KUNI report stated that much of the population has to live on corn and kimchi, and doesn’t even have fuel to cook with. The upside, if it can be seen that way, is that all North Korean property is owned by the government. North Koreans are given a place to live, but the condition of that place will depend on what work you do and what rank you hold. Your social status and which part of the country you live in will also factor. This could mean getting a fairly decent apartment, or living in a place heated by an open fire that does not have a flushing toilet or reliable electricity. Education is also free, and North Korea says it has a national literacy rate of 100% for children 15 or over. Healthcare is free, although according to various articles, it is lacking. This is because of underfunding, which is partly due to sanctions and a struggling economy. According to one article published in The Guardian, sick people were using crystal meth instead of medical drugs because the former was cheaper and provided a modicum of relief. South Koreans could be said to be breaking good in comparison, but at the same time more money does often mean more problems. While the southerners enjoy higher wages, they also have high household debt according to global averages. In a 2017 article in Business Insider, South Korea landed in 7th position on the debt list, with 90% household debt to GDP. While working in North Korea doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, South Koreans are well known for overworking themselves. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the South Koreans worked the second highest number of hours in the world in 2015, at 2,113 hours. This could include 12 hours of obligatory overtime on weekdays, and 16 hours on weekends. South Koreans get 16 days of public holidays, one less public holiday than in North Korea. We might also cite a recent Time magazine article that said North Koreans are forced to work 70 days straight to get a day off. Other sources have said they get 15 days off a year. With all that hard work, South Koreans might hope to have good healthcare if they fall ill from overdoing it. That they do, with their free for all compulsory National Health Insurance. South Korea also has very modern standards of medical care and highly qualified medical professionals. The system is frequently rated as being one of the best in the world. It can’t, however, do anything for a successful suicide. According to the most recent World Health Organization report on global suicide, South Korea was the only developed country in the world to make it onto the top ten list. Other lists include Japan. Rates differ wherever you look, with some sources putting South Korea in third place in the world, behind…North Korea. Most reports don’t mention North Korea because there are no verifiable statistics. The rates are rising, and it stands at around 41.7 per 100,000 men in South Korea. This is very high in view of all other developed nations. Many experts say the high expectations of society on sometimes overworked men is to blame. The rate is also high for women, we should add. This also applies to school in the South, where students study notoriously long hours as well as after school study. For this reason, its students are often in the top leagues globally for their academic performance. 7 out of every 10 high school students in South Korea go to university, but this also means competitiveness and pressure make life hard for youngsters. One report says half of them think about ending it all during their school years. It also means more expensive private schools popping up, while private university semesters can cost anything from US$3,000 to US$6,000. North Korea’s 23,000 colleges and universities are all free. Let’s now turn to the body. These two countries should surely have similar looking people, right? Well, some reports say that due to ill-health, North Koreans are on average two inches, or even three inches shorter than South Koreans. Outspoken social critic Christopher Hitchens once wrote that it was more like a 5 or 6 inch difference. Men in the South average around 5 feet 8 and a half and women about five feet 2. The South Koreans are also quite well-proportioned, and not suffering an obesity crisis like many developed nations. Men average around 154 pounds and women around 123 pounds. Unlike the paunchy leader Kim Jong Un, most North Koreans are on the lighter side than their southern counterparts. Some reports state that Kim Jong Un gained 88 pounds since becoming leader. As for having fun when not working too hard or prostrating yourself to your most excellent leader, a Guardian article that cited North Korean defectors said that the spirit of eumjugamu, meaning the love of ‘drinking, music and dancing,’ is alive and well in the North. This is where the two countries can say they still share a similar trait: they both love karaoke and getting wasted on white liquor. Although, said the article, North Koreans do it at home and southerners tend to go out. We’ll leave it on that merry note. Can you think of other ways North Koreans differ from South Koreans? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Americans vs Europeans! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!


Health insurance system

Social health insurance was introduced with the 1977 National Health Insurance Act, which provided industrial workers in large corporations with health insurance.[13] The program was expanded in 1979 to include other workers, such as government employees and private teachers. This program was thereafter progressively rolled out to the general public, finally achieving universal coverage in 1989.[14] Despite being able to achieve universal health care, this program resulted in more equity issues within society as it grouped people into different categories based on demographic factors like geographical location and employment type.[15] These different groups ultimately received different coverage from their respective healthcare providers.

The healthcare system was initially reliant on not-for-profit insurance societies to manage and provide the health insurance coverage. As the program expanded from 1977 to 1989, the government decided to allow different insurance societies to provide coverage for different sections of the population in order to minimize government intervention in the health insurance system. This eventually produced a very inefficient system, which resulted in more than 350 different health insurance societies.[16] A major healthcare financing reform in 2000 merged all medical societies into the National Health Insurance Service.[17] This new service became a single-payer healthcare system in 2004. The four-year delay occurred because of disagreements in the legislature on how to properly assess self-employed individuals in order to determine their contribution.[13]

The insurance system is funded by contributions, government subsidies, and tobacco surcharges and the National Health Insurance Corporation is the main supervising institution. Employed contributors are expected to pay 5.08% of their income while self-employed contributions are calculated based on the income and property of the individual. The national government provides 14% of the total amount of funding and the tobacco surcharges account for 6% of the funding.[18] The total expenditure on health insurance as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased from 4.0% in 2000 to 7.1% in 2014.[19] In 2014, total health expenditure per capita was $2,531, compared to a global average of $1058, and government expenditure on health per capita was $1368.[20]


The number of hospital beds per 1000 population is 10, well above the OECD countries' average of 5.[21] According to Mark Britnell hospitals dominate the health system. 94% of hospitals (88% of beds) are privately owned. 30 of the 43 tertiary hospitals are run by private universities. 10 more are run by publicly owned universities. Payment is made on a fee-for-service basis. There is no direct government subsidy for hospitals. This encourages hospitals to expand and discourages community services.[22]

The Korea International Medical Association has been formed to encourage medical tourism. Nearly 400,000 medical tourists visited South Korea in 2013 and that number is projected to rise to 1 million by 2020.[23] Compared to procedures done in the US, patients can save between 30 to 85% if they have the treatment in South Korea. [24][25] It has been reported that some Korean hospitals charge foreign patients more than local patients due to customized service such as translation and airport pickup. As a result, some medical tourists have complained that this is unfair[26][27]

Health issues


Suicide rate by gender and age in South Korea 2012, per 100,000 people
Suicide rate by gender and age in South Korea 2012, per 100,000 people


According to the WHO in 2015, the age standardized prevalence of tobacco smoking in the Republic of South Korea is 49.8%.[28] Starting on January 1, 2015, the Ministry of Health banned smoking in cafés, restaurants, and bars.[29] Facilities, such as government offices, public institutions, public transport facilities and schools have become smoke-free zones.[29] In 1986, the Republic of Korea mandated tobacco manufactures to include warnings on cigarette packages.[29] The violation against the smoke policy include a fine, which is less than 100 thousand won.[30]

Drinking alcohol

South Korea is No. 1 in hard liquor consumption in the world
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).[31][32] According to Euromonitor data, it is number 1 in hard-liquor consumption (2013).[33][34][35] Age-standardized death rate of liver cirrhosis for male in South Korea is 20.6% of which 70.5% is attributed to alcohol.[36] 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.[36]

Infectious Disease

An outbreak, 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 is over.[37]

Air pollution

South Korea near bottom of world survey of air div.columns-2 div.column{float:left;width:50%;min-width:300px}.mw-parser-output div.columns-3 div.column{float:left;width:33.3%;min-width:200px}.mw-parser-output div.columns-4 div.column{float:left;width:25%;min-width:150px}.mw-parser-output div.columns-5 div.column{float:left;width:20%;min-width:120px}   Very Unhealthy     Unhealthy      Unhealthy for sensitive groups     Moderate   Good
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.[38]


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.[39]

2014 Tuberculosis statistics - OECD (per 100,000 person) [39]
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 disease

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).[40] 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.[18]

Unequal distribution of physicians

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 rural areas, and the problem is growing because younger physicians are choosing to practice in the cities.[41]


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  12. ^ "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.
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  14. ^ Cho, Soo-Yeon (2007). The origins and implementation of the national health insurance programs in Korea, 1961–1979. University of Missouri - Columbia.
  15. ^ Nam, Illan (2010). Divergent trajectories: Healthcare insurance reforms in South Korea and Chile. Ann Arbobr: Princeton University.
  16. ^ Kwon, Soonman (2003). "Healthcare financing reform and the new single payer system in the Republic of Korea: social solidarity or efficiency?". International Social Security Review. 56 – via Wiley.
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  27. ^ "Korea Times, Foreigners Victims of Inflated Medical Fees". 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2011-10-29.
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  33. ^ "South Koreans Slam Down 11.2 Shots of Hard Liquor Each Week". Time. February 11, 2014.
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  35. ^ "Here Are The Countries That Drink The Most Hard Liquor". Business Insider. February 10, 2014.
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This page was last edited on 23 July 2018, at 17:42
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