What Is Considered Tall in South Korea?

The average height of South Korean women has increased by a shocking 8″ (20 cm) in the last century. Meanwhile, the men have grown by 6″ (15 cm). These changes point to one of the biggest economic success stories in history.

But before we get into all that… How tall is “tall” in South Korea after all? And would you be considered tall there?

The average height in South Korea is roughly 5’9″ (175 cm) for men and 5’4″ (163 cm) for women. If you’re above 6’0″ (183 cm), you’re taller than ~98% of South Koreans, and you would generally be considered tall in South Korea.

Below, I’ll share height comparison tables, so you can see how you compare to South Koreans. I’ll also answer what is the most attractive height in South Korea for men and women.

Average Height in South Korea

The average man in the South Korea is 5’9″ (175 cm), and the average woman is 5’4″ (163 cm). (source)

Here are some comparisons to put that into context:

  • On average, South Korean men are 2 cm (0.8″) shorter than men from the U.S., 3 cm (1.2″) shorter than men from Canada and the U.K., and 4 cm (1.6″) shorter than men from Australia.
  • On average, South Korean women are the same height as women from the U.S., 1 cm (0.4″) shorter than women from the U.K., and 2 cm (0.8″) shorter than women from Canada and Australia.

We will look at how South Korea compares to other Asian countries for height below. But first, let’s look at the distribution of different heights in South Korea.

Height Comparison Tables

Have you wondered how your own height would compare to Korean men or women? You can use the following two tables to check.

First, let’s see how your height compares to South Korean men. (Note: These tables assume you’re comparing your height to an adult around 30 years old.)

Your HeightYou Are Taller Than ____% of South Korean Men.
4’10” (147 cm)~0%
4’11” (150 cm)0.1%
5’0″ (152 cm)0.2%
5’1″ (155 cm)0.7%
5’2″ (157 cm)2%
5’3″ (160 cm)5%
5’4″ (163 cm)10%
5’5″ (165 cm)19%
5’6″ (168 cm)32%
5’7″ (170 cm)47%
5’8″ (173 cm)62%
5’9″ (175 cm)76%
5’10” (178 cm)87%
5’11” (180 cm)93%
6’0″ (183 cm)97%
6’1″ (185 cm)99%
6’2″ (188 cm)99.7%
6’3″ (191 cm)99.9%
6’4″+ (193+ cm)~100%
How does your height compare to South Korean men? (source)

Now, let’s take a look at how your height compares to South Korean women:

Your HeightYou Are Taller Than ____% of South Korean Women.
4’6″ (137 cm)~0%
4’7″ (140 cm)0.2%
4’8″ (142 cm)0.6%
4’9″ (145 cm)2%%
4’10” (147 cm)5%
4’11” (150 cm)10%
5’0″ (152 cm)20%
5’1″ (155 cm)34%
5’2″ (157 cm)51%
5’3″ (160 cm)67%
5’4″ (163 cm)81%
5’5″ (165 cm)90%
5’6″ (168 cm)96%
5’7″ (170 cm)98%
5’8″ (173 cm)99.5%
5’9″ (175 cm)99.9%
5’10” (178 cm)~100%
How does your height compare to South Korean women? (source)

Why Are Koreans So Tall?

The two biggest factors that determine height are genetics and nutrition. It is believed that genetics determine 60% to 80% of your height, while nutrition determines the other 20% to 40%. (source)

So, how do these factors explain the height of Korean people?

Actually, it’s been suggested in Discover Magazine that Asian populations in general may be shorter due to a gene called HMGA2. The “short” allele of this gene is more common in East Asian populations, compared to Europe and Africa.

So that may explain why a lot of Asian populations are shorter. This Stanford article also explores why evolution favored shorter bones in some populations than others.

However, in the case of South Korean’s height, nutrition and economic development are the biggest issues worth talking about.

Have Koreans Gotten Taller?

South Koreas have indeed gotten taller in recent decades. In fact, they have gotten a lot taller.

Over the past century, many countries have seen major increases in average height. But while most countries only had a ~3″ increase in average height, South Korea saw a stunning 8″ height increase for women and 6″ for men. (source)

South Korean women born back in 1896 only grew to an average height of 4’7″ (142 cm). That’s shorter than any country’s average female height today. But now today, South Korea has one of the tallest populations in Asia.

So, what happened? Well, a lot of stuff happened—but most of it had to do with economic development, and how that impacted nutrition and disease prevention.

South Korea had incredible economic development in the 20th century. According to the World Bank, South Korea’s GDP per capita climbed from ~$158 in 1960 to ~$35,000 in 2021. That’s a 221x increase (22,100%) over those 61 years.

Looking at nutrition data, South Korea’s food supply also improved massively in those years. From 1961 to 2013, an amazing ~1,200 more calories became available to each person in South Korea per day. (source)

Looking at all of this data, the taller stature of today’s South Koreans is a success story when it comes to economic development, more than anything else.

What Is the Most Attractive Height in South Korea?

Generally, the top ~10% tallest people are viewed as having the most attractive height in South Korea. Let’s look at some specific data to back that up.

South Koreans prefer women to be between 5’5″ (165 cm) and 5’9″ (175 cm), according to a 2019 study conducted by Ipsos. This corresponds to roughly the top 10% of tallest South Korean women (excluding very tall outliers).

And South Koreans prefer men to be between 5’10” (178 cm) and 6’0″ (183 cm), according to Ipsos’s 2019 data. This corresponds to the 87th to 97th percentile of male height in Korea. So again, it’s roughly the tallest ~10% (excluding very tall outliers).

Height in South Korea vs Other Countries

Now let’s take a look at how South Korea fits in with several other Asian countries for height:

CountryFemale Avg. HeightMale Avg. Height
Cambodia5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (165 cm)
China5’4″ (163 cm)5’9″ (175 cm)
Indonesia5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (166 cm)
Japan5’2″ (158 cm)5’8″ (172 cm)
Malaysia5’2″ (157 cm)5’6″ (168 cm)
Philippines5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (165 cm)
Singapore5’3″ (161 cm)5’8″ (173 cm)
South Korea5’4″ (163 cm)5’9″ (175 cm)
Taiwan5’3″ (160 cm)5’8″ (173 cm)
Thailand5’3″ (159 cm)5’7″ (171 cm)
Vietnam5’2″ (158 cm)5’6″ (168 cm)
Average Heights in Asia by Country. (Source)

As you can see, the tallest countries here are South Korea and China. Meanwhile, the shortest are Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In the end, South Korea has become one of the taller countries in Asia today. So accordingly, what’s “tall” in South Korea is similar to many western countries now, just an inch or two shorter.