OECD Health at a Glance 2009: key findings for Korea


The OECD’s latest edition of Health at a Glance shows that all countries could do better in providing good quality health care.

Quality of Care

Korea has mixed health care quality outcomes. Survival rates for cervical cancer are high, but are lower than average for breast cancer. Korea does well in avoiding hospital admissions for people with congestive heart failure and diabetes complications, but asthma and hypertension admissions are high. Deaths in hospital for stroke are among the lowest in the OECD; conversely, hospital deaths after heart attack are high.


  • The 5-year relative survival rate for cervical cancer during 2001-2006 was 76.5%, among the highest in the OECD (OECD average 65.7%). For breast cancer, it was 75.5%, lower than the OECD average of 81.2%.
  • For colorectal cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is close to average: among males in Korea it was 59.1% (OECD average 56.4%) and among females 57.1% (OECD average 58.0%).
  • Avoidable hospital admissions for congestive heart failure are the lowest in the OECD (110 per 100 000 population aged 15 and over), but for hypertension are more than double the OECD average (191 vs. 84). Diabetes complications admissions are lower than average, but asthma admissions are higher.
  • In-hospital case-fatality rates within 30 days of admission for acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) are significantly higher than the OECD average (8.1% vs. 4.9%, in 2007). Korea had lower rates of deaths in hospital for both ischaemic (2.4% vs 5.0%) and hemorrhagic stroke (11.0% vs 19.8%).


Health Expenditure

Korea spent 6.8% of GDP on health, less than the OECD average of 8.9%. Spending per person has grown significantly over the past decade, but remains lower than average. The public sector provides slightly more than half of all health funding.


  • Total health spending accounted for 6.8% of GDP in Korea in 2007, compared with an average of 8.9% across OECD countries. The United States (16.0%), France (11.0%) and Switzerland (10.8%) had high shares.
  • Korea also has lower than average spending per person, with spending of 1688 USD in 2007, adjusted for purchasing power parity (OECD average 2984 USD). However, per capita health spending over 1997-2007 grew in real terms by 8.7%, the highest amount in the OECD.
  • The public sector is the main source of health funding in all OECD countries, except Mexico and the United States. In Korea, 55% of health spending was funded by public sources in 2007, well below the average of 73% for OECD countries. 


  • Journalists are invited to contact the OECD’s Media Relations Division (tel.: 33 1 45 24 97 00 or [email protected]) to obtain a copy of OECD Health at a Glance 2009.
  • For further information about the content of OECD Health at a Glance 2009, please contact Mark Pearson (tel. 33 1 45 24 92 69 or [email protected]) or Gaétan Lafortune (tel. 33 1 45 24 92 67 or [email protected]) in the OECD Health Division.
  • More information on OECD Health at a Glance 2009 is available at
  • For information on OECD's work on Korea, please visit


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