One chart shows how the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu even in South Korea, where the COVID-19 death rate is low

One chart shows how the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu even in South Korea, where the COVID-19 death rate is low
coronavirus south korea
  • The novel coronavirus is far more deadly than the seasonal flu.
  • A comparison of the most recent death rates in South Korea from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and death rates from last year's US flu season show a stark difference.
  • South Korea - which has reported some of the lowest coronavirus death rates of any country - still has a COVID-19 death rate more than eight times higher than that of the flu.
  • Both diseases are more dangerous for older patients, but COVID-19 is particularly risky for the elderly.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

South Korea has reported far lower death rates from the novel coronavirus than many other countries. But even those lower rates suggest that the new disease is far more dangerous than the flu.


The following chart compares death rates by age in South Korea from COVID-19 as of Thursday to death rates from the flu in the US over the course of the 2018-19 flu season, based on CDC data.

flu vs south korea covid death rates

The comparison makes clear that even given the lower death rates in South Korea, COVID-19 is still a far more dangerous disease than the flu.

The overall death rate in the US from last year's flu season was about 0.1%, about 8.5 times lower than South Korea's COVID-19 death rate. While both the flu and coronavirus are more dangerous for older patients than younger patients, the flu's death rate of about 0.8% among patients age 65 and over is roughly one-fourth that of South Korea's current COVID-19 death rate of about 3.4% among patients age 60 and over.

Comparisons between COVID-19 death rates in other countries and death rates from the flu are similarly stark.


The South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been releasing regular reports on case counts and death rates in the country. The most recent report, which included data through Thursday, also reinforced that COVID-19 - the disease caused by the virus - is far deadlier for patients over age 60 than for younger people.

A big factor in South Korea's low reported COVID-19 death rate is the country's aggressive testing policy. South Korea has been running as many as 10,000 coronavirus tests per day. Higher rates of testing can lead to lower death rates it means more mild or asymptomatic cases are likely to be caught and factored into the ratio.

As of Thursday, 66 out of 7,869, or 0.84%, of South Korean patients confirmed to have the coronavirus have died. Meanwhile, as of Thursday in the United States, 38 out of 1,358 confirmed cases have resulted in death, a 2.8% death rate.

According to the COVID Tracking Project - a testing-tracking resource from two journalists at the Atlantic and the founder of a medical data startup - only about 8,000 tests have been run in the US in total. They note, however, that those figures may be incomplete due to different state policies on reporting negative tests.

A comparison of South Korea's and China's death rates by age shows a similar disparity, with much higher rates in the latter country than in the former. South Korea, however, had the benefit of a head start in preparing a response to the outbreak.