Did you see the first Presidential debate where John McCain throws out a random statistic, while talking about the North Korean’s regime, he mentions how they are also 3 inches shorter than the average South Korean? A brief Youtube clip here (warning: clip also comes with editorial flourishes).
New York Times‘ Tara Parker-Pope also delves into the random statistic in her recent health blog entry, where the 2004 study published in Economics and Human Biology showed that North Koreans were 2 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts. (Fact check alert, Senator McCain!)
I’m surprised to see that there was actually a study done comparing the heights of the two populations, with an interesting and thought-provoking study result. And whenever my mom returns to Korea she is thrilled that people have grown taller, thereby making her less of a “tall freak” as a woman of 172 cm. I once rode the subway with the Yonsei basketball team, and needless to say, they were very tall. My sister used to say that Stanford (her school) guys were somewhat shorter than the average, which she claimed very unscientifically to “stress-related dwarfism”. Of course there will always be anomalies; when I read the article, it made me think why I was not as tall as both my parents, who were both born in South Korea. Being born in the U.S. and growing up on In-N-Out hamburgers and lots of great nutrition and exercise, I’m wondering why I’m not 5’8″ like my mother.
I think McCain’s statistic is thought-provoking, but definitely “needs more research”, and probably not scientifically supported enough to throw out in a Presidential debate (my humble opinion, of course). On a non-Asian note, if you want to read more about how Americans are shorter than Western Europeans, the New Yorker has a fascinating article about that as well. I guess a richer country = not always a taller population? Interesting theories, definitely!