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South Korea – Health Issues

South Korea is a prosperous country with a population of over 51 million people. Like many other countries, the health of the population is a priority for the government. This article will examine some of the common health issues affecting the people of South Korea, as well as attitudes towards smoking and the legislation in place to address it.

Common Health Issues in South Korea


Obesity is an increasing concern in South Korea. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the prevalence of obesity in South Korea has increased from 3.8% in 1995 to 5.3% in 2016. The increase in obesity is primarily attributed to changes in diet and lifestyle, with more people consuming fast food and leading sedentary lifestyles.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in South Korea. According to the Korean Statistical Information Service, cardiovascular diseases accounted for 27.3% of all deaths in 2019. The major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in South Korea include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity.


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Cancer is also a significant health issue in South Korea, with lung cancer being the leading cause of cancer deaths among men, and breast cancer among women. Other types of cancer that are common in South Korea include stomach, colon, and liver cancers. The high incidence of cancer in South Korea has been linked to factors such as poor diet, smoking, and exposure to environmental pollutants.

Mental Health

Mental health is becoming an increasingly important issue in South Korea. According to a report by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of people seeking help for mental health issues increased by 5.5% in 2019. Depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders are the most common mental health issues in South Korea. The high prevalence of mental health issues has been linked to factors such as work-related stress, social isolation, and pressure to succeed.

Smoking in South Korea

Smoking Prevalence

Smoking is relatively common in South Korea, with approximately 20% of the population being smokers. The prevalence of smoking is higher among men (about 40%) than women (less than 5%). Smoking rates have been declining in recent years, however, due to increased public awareness campaigns and stricter legislation.

Attitudes towards Smoking

Attitudes towards smoking in South Korea are generally negative, with the majority of people supporting anti-smoking policies. However, there is still a significant proportion of the population that supports smoking, particularly among older generations.

Legislation on Smoking

The South Korean government has implemented several measures to address smoking, including the Tobacco Business Act, which bans smoking in public places such as restaurants and cafes. The government has also increased taxes on tobacco products and implemented graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.

However, the enforcement of anti-smoking policies in South Korea is still a work in progress. Many people continue to smoke in public places, and enforcement of the smoking ban is inconsistent. Additionally, the tobacco industry in South Korea remains powerful, and the government has been criticized for not doing enough to combat its influence.

In conclusion, South Korea faces a range of health issues, including a high prevalence of chronic diseases and mental health disorders. However, the government and public health organizations have taken steps to address these issues, including implementing policies to promote healthy lifestyles, increasing access to healthcare, and promoting smoking cessation. By continuing to prioritize these efforts, South Korea can work towards improving the health and well-being of its population.

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