When people think of Korea, things that seem to come up a lot are plastic surgery, materialism, drinking, smoking, partying and eating out a lot. Because of this, there can be a widespread perception that Koreans are unhealthy people. However, Korea is also known for a wide verity of skin care products (if you can find them in your skin tone), health infomercials, diet crazes, insane gym and exercise routines and a passionate stance against taking hard drugs. This may seem contradictory to some since it is felt that people do a little bit of both in Korea. But is the health conscience side of Korean life merely a facade, or is it really what Korean people are like?
The truth is that a large number of Koreans do have unhealthy habits. Alcohol is very cheap in Korea, with soju that you’d have to get in a liquor store here being available at 7 Eleven and GS25 stores there for under $2. Cigarettes are said to be so cheap in Korea that some Americans that move to Seoul admitting that they started smoking again because of how affordable cigarettes are. Drinking after work with your boss can lead to several rounds of alcohol that could last as late as noon with some people. And some Koreans who are single have stated that they will eat out at every meal because it’s cheaper than cooking at home. When looking at things from this perspective, Korea can be considered a very unhealthy place to live.
Despite this being shown on television shows and movies, Korea does have a lot of healthy habits that are transferred to the life of Koreans even outside of Korea. A traditional Korean diet uses ingredients that are healthy and contains a lot of vegetables. Korean meat usually does not have the hormones and antibiotics that are found in other countries. In larger cities, many people will walk wherever they need to go for either part or all of the trip there. Taking the subway may seem easy, but the number of stairs one has to walk going to and from subway stations can be a workout in itself. And the number of spots along the Han River that have exercise equipment.
I remember how shocked I was when a friend of mine told me that she was stressed, so she decided to go climb a mountain. Activities such as hiking and going to a fitness center are very common in Korean and Korean American society. Korea does indeed have some unhealthy habits. But if one really wants to live a healthy lifestyle, it can easily be done in Korea. With more and more vegan options and other diet based restaurants as well, eating in a way that you would like is easier in Korea than it would have been in years past. All of this tends to lead to Koreans living years longer than the average American does. So in answer to the question in the theme of this post, Koreans do tend to be health conscience. And these health conscience decisions tend to pay off long term for many Koreans.