OBJECTIVES: Despite various government initiatives, including the expansion of national health insurance coverage, health inequality has been a key health policy issue in South Korea during the past decade. This study describes and compares the extent of the total health inequality and the income-related health inequality over time among Korean adults. METHODS: This study employs the 1998, 2001 and 2005 Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (KNHANESs). The self-assessed health (SAH) ordinal responses, measured on a five-point scale, rescaled to cardinal values to measure the health inequalities with using interval regression. The boundaries of each threshold for the interval regression analysis were obtained from the empirical distribution of the EuroQol-5 Dimension (EQ-5D) valuation weights estimated from the 2005 KNHANES. The final model predicting the individuals' health status included age, gender, educational attainment, occupation, income, and the regional prosperity index. The concentration index was used to measure and analyze the health inequality. RESULTS: The KNHANES data showed an unequal distribution of the total health inequality in favor of the higher income groups, and this is getting worse over time (0.0327 in 1998, 0.0393 in 2001 and 0.0924 in 2005). The income-related health inequality in 2005 was 0.0278, indicating that 30.1% of the total health inequality can be attributed to income. CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate there are health inequalities across the sociodemographic and income groups despite the recent government's efforts. Further research is warranted to investigate what potential policy actions are necessary to decrease the health inequality in Korea.