Objective: The purposes of this paper are to describe the unique aspects of the nutrition transition in South Korea, including trends in food consumption and obesity, patterns of morbidity and mortality; to focus on efforts to maintain the traditional diet in the midst of rapid economic growth and the introduction of Western culture; and to provide insights for other countries.
Design: We analysed secondary dietary intake, anthropometric, morbidity and mortality data from published reports and articles.
Results: In South Korea, the level and rate of increase in fat intake have remained very low, whereas vegetable intake has been high and fruit intake has increased greatly. South Korea also has a relatively low prevalence of obesity compared with other Asian countries. The traditional Korean diet is a low-fat and high-vegetable diet. Therefore, the government and nutrition specialists have been initiating numerous efforts to advertise and teach the public that the traditional diet is a healthy diet. They are also working on revival of the traditional diet using an approach that is acceptable to contemporary Koreans.
Conclusions: The nutrition transition in South Korea is unique. A range of government, nutrition specialists and some private organisation efforts has worked to retain healthful elements of the traditional diet in South Korea. The continued low level of total fat in the overall diet and the high intake of fruits and vegetables bode well for South Korea.