Korea in the 1980s

The history of disease in twentieth-century Korea illustrates the remarkable effect of improved sanitary conditions and public health measures. Despite the devastation caused by World War II and the Korean War and the repatriation of millions of Koreans from Manchuria, China, and Japan, many of the epidemic and endemic diseases discussed have been virtually eliminated. Moreover, Korea's traditional agrarian Confucian society has been transformed into one that is highly mobile, urbanized, and well educated. The percentage of South Korean citizens attending colleges ranks among the highest in the world.

The population of the Republic of Korea was about 32 million in 1971, giving it a population density ranking about fourth in the world. With improvements in sanitation, public health, and medical facilities, the population had been increasing at a rate of 2.4 percent per year as infant mortality fell, life expectancy was extended, and endemic and epidemic diseases were brought under control. In the 1980s the population of South Korea was about 42,643,000; one in four Koreans lives in Seoul, the capital city (Gibbons 1988).

Lois N. Magner

This publication was supported in part by NIH Grant ROl LM 04175 from the National Library of Medicine.

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