Mortality Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in South Korea: Two Estimations of the Excess Mortality

Seminar no. 1262
15 May 2024 Time 12.30 – 13.30 hrs.

Speaker: Prof. Doo-Sub Kim

This study explores the impact that COVID-19 has had on mortality in South Korea. Government statistics on COVID-19 deaths are highly underestimated due to their dependency on the amount of COVID-19 confirmation tests and limitations in capturing deaths from other causes attributable to the pandemic crisis conditions. This study reviews the spread of COVID-19 and the distinctive features of COVID-19 deaths during the past three and half years of the pandemic. The analysis focused on estimating the amount of excess deaths due to COVID-19 in two ways. Daily COVID-19 statistics from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), the weekly and monthly mortality data from Statistics Korea, and the weekly mortality data from the Human Mortality Database (HMD) were utilized. The results show that excess deaths over the COVID-19 pandemic were 2.5-3.2 times larger than the COVID-19 deaths reported by KDCA. Almost half of the excess deaths occurred between November 2021 and April 2022, when the Omicron variant was widely spread in South Korea. A severe age disparity in the excess deaths was found. The number of excess deaths was negative among those under age 15. Around 41.1% and 63.3% of the excess deaths occurred among male and female elderly aged 85 or over, respectively. Finally, due to a heavy composition of females in the elderly population, the number of female excess deaths was about 34.2% larger than male excess deaths. However, the COVID-19 fatality rate was around 13.6% higher for males than females. BIO: Doo-Sub KIM Hanyang University Doo-Sub KIM is an Emeritus Professor at Hanyang University. He is the Former President of the Asian Population Association, the Former President of the Population Association of Korea, and the Founding Director of the Center for SSK Multicultural Research at Hanyang University. He also serves as a Member of the IPUMS-International Advisory Board for the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota, a Board Member of the International Scientific Advisory Committee for the Asian Demographic Research Institute at Shanghai University, and a Chairman of the Population Association of Korea. Over the past four decades, he has served on the National Statistics Committee of Korea, the Korea Social Science Data Archive, and the Advisory Committee for Social Policy at the Office of the President of Korea. Educated at Seoul National University (BA and MA) and Brown University (Ph.D.), he has received many significant awards, including the Order of Service Merit (2004) and the Order of Civil Merit (2018) from the President of Korea. His main research areas are fertility, demographic transition, cross-border marriage, and research methodology. He has published 38 books/monographs and some 160 journal articles and book chapters. His publications include Foreign Residents in Korea 2017 (2018), International Marriage of Koreans and Adaptation of Foreign Spouses (2015), Diversity of Foreign Spouses and Stability of International Marriages (2013), Cross-Border Marriage: Global Trends and Diversity (2012), The Population of North Korea and Population Census (2011), Qualitative Researching (2010), Cross-Border Marriage: Process and Dynamics (2008), The ‘IMF Economic Crisis’ and Changes in Korean Fertility (2007), and The Population of Korea (2004).

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