Over 1 in 3 Korean low-income earners obese

More low-income earners in South Korea are suffering from obesity than those with higher incomes, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

A total of 34.7 per cent of the poorest 25 per cent of the population were obese last year, while 30.1 per cent of the wealthiest 25 per cent had the condition.

While 0.49 per cent of the country's entire population suffered from severe obesity last year, 1.23 per cent of low-income earners and 1.57 per cent of low income-earning women had the condition.

Also, 37 per cent of those living in rural areas were obese, while only 31.9 per cent of urban dwellers were struggling with their weight.

One possible reason behind the statistics is that higher-income earners who live in the city have better access to information on health and diet, as well as fitness programs, the ministry said.

As of last year, 32.4 per cent of adults here were diagnosed as obese. The number of overweight Koreans has increased by 1.6 per cent in the past decade.

According to the National Health Insurance Service, South Koreans spent 2.7 billion won (S$3.41 billion) on obesity-related diseases in 2011. In 2007, however, only 1.9 trillion won was spent on the health condition.

Obesity is known to increase the risk of cervical, liver and kidney cancers and other diseases, according to the Health Ministry.