the long lives of South Koreans

I somehow missed this interesting column from Bryan Harris, chief of the FT’s Seoul bureau. Asia is amazing. The continent is changing rapidly, and not just in China.

[South Korea] this week stole global headlines and the crown for longest lifespans after a study from Imperial College London found that, by 2030, its citizens are set to live longer than anyone else. Girls born in South Korea 13 years from now can expect to live on average to the ripe age of 91. South Korean males — typically more partial to a drink and a smoke — will have to settle for 84, ahead of men anywhere else in the world. ….

As recently as the mid-1980s, life expectancy for South Korean women was less than 75, while men could not expect to make 65.

So what is the secret? On this, there is some consensus: investments in medical care, a health-conscious culture and a hearty diet underpinned by the ubiquitous presence of fermented vegetables, most notably kimchi. ….

These advances, however, were only made possible by the government’s longstanding commitment to universal healthcare. Under the system, the vast majority of citizens pay a national health insurance premium deducted from their paycheck.

Patients over 40 have a free medical check-up every two years, and the cost of visiting a doctor is drastically reduced — an incentive that has increased early detection of disease.

Bryan Harris, “Kimchi and hypochondria keep South Koreans healthy“, Financial Times, 25 February 2017 (gated paywall).

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