Why Are Koreans So Tall? (Scientific Explanation)

Korean Height Facts

South Koreans have grown over five centimeters taller over the past 40 years. Height for European people or the US between the 17th and 19th centuries was also short for current standards. For example, Sweden was around 169 centimeters, the Netherlands was around 166, Germany was around 169, and the US in the 17th century was around 173.

So it’s in recent history that everyone has grown this tall. Compared to the Chosun kingdom, everyone has at least increased ten centimeters. Korean women seem to have much more of a Western figure where their legs are much longer, and they look much taller.

If you compare the European average height during the 17th and 19th centuries and the Korean average height during the 17th and 19th centuries, there still is a ten-centimeter difference. This is due to genetics. So one research conducted recently proves that nurture wins over nature, comparing South Koreans to North Koreans.

South Koreans and North Koreans are genetically the same. They’re all from the same Sun Dynasty. According to the Chosun dynasty, everyone should be around 164 men and 149 women. Proper nutrition, diet, and balanced life make Korean taller. Let’s know in detail.

Why are Koreans so tall? (Height facts)

We’re going to talk about the evolution of height in Korea. When you watch K-Pop or K-drama, you’ll see a lot of tall men and women. You’ll see girls with long legs and guys with long lips. According to the Korean Agency of Technology and Standards, the average height for Korean men is around 174 centimeters, and the average for women is around 160 centimeters or 160.5. You see a huge anomaly in the K-drama and K-Pop industry because they must pick the fairest. But Korean men and women haven’t always been this tall.

According to the Seoul National University research, Joseon Kingdom was the last kingdom before Korea became the Republic of Korea. At this time, the average height for men was lower. So the average height for men was around 161 centimeters, and it was around 149 centimeters only for women. It rose ten centimeters from the Chosun dynasty, around the 17th and 19th centuries.

The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards Size Korea report found the average height of Korean men to be 6.4 centimeters taller than four decades ago, with an average height of 172.5 centimeters or five feet eight inches. Meanwhile, growing Korean women had an average height of 159.6 centimeters or six feet three inches. That’s around 5.3 centimeters taller than in the late 1970s.

Department of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa showed increased height, and some South Koreans showed a more Westernized body figure. In contrast, others kept the inherent Korean figure. From an anthropological perspective, what is the standard Korean body figure? That’s an excellent question because it’s tough to answer.

The reason is that there is so much variation within a population that it’s almost impossible to come up with one specific person that calls a good example of this. Researchers have done a lot of skeletal, biological, and comparative analyses related to trying to identify what a Korean looks like. It isn’t easy to be able to answer that question. There have been evolutionary changes in the body figure, particularly regarding the Korean body.

  • The researchers attribute nutrition, industrialization, DNA, and the basic increase in welfare and well-being of all human beings to contribute to becoming taller.

This is not only a phenomenon in Korea but also a worldwide phenomenon. The main factors are nutrition and DNA. Let’s see!

Effect of nutrition

Adequate nutrition, especially during childhood and adolescence, is crucial for proper bone and muscle development, which can contribute to taller stature. From the data from four decades ago, Koreans were much smaller. It was very poor considering the impact of World War Two and the Korean War. So children born during this period weren’t their parents. The mother could not get the proper nutrients into the womb, and the fetus became much smaller.

Koreans are doing much better regarding nutrition and health than two or three generations ago. So it’s not surprising that you have increased body size not only higher but also in width. As a result of these changes in diet and health and the other point that you brought up about some Koreans having more of a Western body structure.

Nowadays, Western food is readily available on almost every street corner if you go to Korea. There are so many different restaurants with food that’s available to a lot of people. Also, there’s so much more international travel nowadays than in 1980. Things are getting a lot of different experiences as a result of this. So it’s not surprising that Koreans are becoming bigger, not only taller but also wider and more in terms of their Western structure.

Economic Development

South Korea has experienced rapid economic growth and development over the past few decades. This has led to improved living standards, increased access to healthcare, and better overall socio-economic conditions. These factors and improved nutrition can positively impact physical development, including height.

DNA effect

A complex interplay of multiple genes influences height, and there may be genetic factors specific to certain populations, including Koreans, that contribute to their average height. Dr. Craig said we commonly consider a person’s height, genetic makeup, and DNA.

So tall people tend to have tall children. But other factors, such as nutrition, health, and environment, seem to influence height. So how much of a person’s height is determined by their DNA? At this stage, it’s most commonly accepted that the DNA composes up to about 80% of the determination for the height. But it’s 100% instead of 80% because the DNA predetermination for the height maximizes the maximum level, determining a person’s height.

Nutrition and other types of environments are factors that take a toll on the maximum height capacity that can happen in a person. So when the DNA determines a person to be at a certain height, let’s say that they have to go through a very devastating environment, that vaccine nutrition puts them in a position where they have to go through every anomaly.

Then they would reduce a certain amount of height from the maximum level. So it’s about up to 80% that the DNA determines the height. But medically speaking, it’s what determines a person’s height ultimately.

Last words

North Korean men and women are all ten centimeters shorter than South Koreans. It is due to malnutrition, lack of welfare, or a lack of hygiene. It’s also indicated by the Human Development Index conducted worldwide. So the lack of growth is due to nutrition.

You don’t see a big difference between North Korean men and women. But you see a vast difference between South and North Korean men. It’s because the average height for South Korean boys is around 173, and North Korean boys are still about 155. So you see that nutrition, welfare, and hygiene affect growth and height.

Physiologically speaking, while we are sleeping when the growth hormone is excreted within our body. That’s what makes all the metabolism grow, making the growth in height. So sleeping is essential, but more importantly, sleeping at the right hours. It’s also crucial. Currently known, the growth hormone is excreted from around 10:00 pm to 4 am to 6:00 am, depending on the circadian rhythm of each person.

So it is vital that growing children, especially in puberty, get enough sleep during those hours. On top of that, the perfect balance in the diet also matters because those resources will help the metabolism. The metabolism will end up constituting growth and height.

Learn more:

Why Do Some Mexicans Look Asian?

Why Are Asians So Skinny?


Lucca A, Moura EC (January 2010). “Validity and reliability of self-reported weight, height and body mass index from telephone interviews.” Proceedings of Statistics Canada’s Symposium. Data Collection: Challenges, Achievements, and New Directions.

Grasgruber P, Cacek J, Kalina T, Sebera M. “The role of nutrition and genetics as key determinants of the positive height trend.” Economics and Human Biology.
Institute of Statistics Institute of Public Health Tirana, Albania.

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher.I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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