By Kim Jae-won
South Korean babies, who are born in 2010, are expected to live 79.4 years, the nation's statistical agency said Thursday. This is the latest signal that the country is quickly moving toward becoming an aged society.
According to Statistics Korea, the 2010 South Korean life expectancy is 1.9 years longer than the 77.5 years in 2005, and 11.8 years longer than the world average of 67.6 years.
The latest findings put the nation in a tie with England for 22nd place out of 101 countries surveyed.
Females will likely outlive their male counterparts by 6.6 years, the report showed. Men are expected to live for 75.9 years, with women living an average of 82.5 years.
Korea's life expectancy has been steadily rising over the past decades. In 1985, it was 66.8 years before reaching 69.8 years in 1990, 72.7 years in 1995 and 74.4 years in 2000.
The figures indicate that the nation is quickly becoming an aged society, in which more than 14 percent of the population is 65 years old or higher. The nation became an aging society in 2000, when the ratio exceeded 7 percent.
``Life expectancy has been growing every year, which means that the nation's population is aging at a fast pace,'' a government official said. ``This could dent the nation's productivity and increase overall welfare expenses, underlining the importance of countermeasures by the government.''
Japan has the highest average life expectancy of 82.7 years, followed by Hong Kong with 82.2 years. Iceland and Switzerland came next with 81.8 years each, and Australia was ranked fifth with 81.5 years, Statistics Korea said.
China reported 73 years, securing the 51st position, and North Korea was ranked 75th with 67.3 years, 0.3 years behind the average. The gap between the two Koreas is 12.1 years.
African countries filled the bottom line. Zambia recorded the shortest life expectancy at 45.2 years while Somalia and Ethiopia reported 49.6 and 55 years, respectively.