London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Sleepless (and short) in Seoul

The French spend more time sleeping than anyone else in OECD countries. They also devote more time to eating than anyone else and nearly double that of Americans, Canadians or Mexicans. The Japanese sleep nearly an hour less every night than the French and also spend longer at work and commuting than they do indulging in leisure activities.

These are the highlights of the OECD’s statistics compendium entitled Society at a Glance, updated a couple of days ago. So how does Korea measure up? Literally, not terribly well. In the height stakes, Korean men beat the Portuguese and the Mexicans, but that’s about it. They’re well below the OECD average and a centimetre shorter than the average Japanese.

OECD height chart

And Koreans who feel that they are unreasonably overshadowed by some of their neighbours will find further examples in the abstract at the top of this page: for the detailed statistics published along with the OECD’s report show that Koreans make do with less sleep and work 29% more hours per year than the Japanese.

OECD sleep statistics

oecd-suicidesoecd-suicide-by-ageOther statistics are regrettably familiar. South Korea has the lowest fertility rate and the highest suicide rate among OECD nations. While the OECD average suicide rate is declining, Korea’s is rising (left); and shows a marked increase among older victims (right). More doom and gloom? Despite spending more hours at work than anyone else, Koreans are least satisfied with their job. And over half the population over 15 don’t think their health is good – though the Japanese are even more pessimistic in this regard. Reflecting this, the two neighbours across the East Sea top the league table for amount of spare time spent going to the doctor:

Statistics on medical and other services

So what’s the good news? Korea has the fastest-growing spending on health (though overall has low social spending), and has seen a spectacular increase in life expectancy over the past 45 years. Korea has by far the lowest adult obesity rate (needless to say, the US is the fattest), has an above average marriage rate and a below average number of births outside of wedlock. Their work-life balance is surprisingly good: Koreans spend equal amounts of time in leisure and in paid work – though perhaps that’s because they sleep so little. And although some are concerned about income inequality, Korea’s Gini coefficient is around the OECD average.

Endless fun for those with the time to pore over data and who like compiling league tables. The OECD boffins have clearly enjoyed themselves, but recognizing the time taken to assemble and analyze the numbers, the statistics mainly relate to 2006.


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