Statural growth in human populations is a sensitive indicator of socio-economic well-being, and improvements in socio-economic status are reflected in secular increases in adult height. In the present study, we investigated the statures of historical Korean societies to show how stature changed over time. Applying Fujii's equation, derived from modern Japanese, to the measurement of femora removed from 15th- to 19th-century Joseon tombs, the average heights of Korean adults during the Joseon dynasty were estimated to be 161.1 ± 5.6 cm and 148.9 ± 4.6 cm for males and females, respectively. Plotting statures for successive historical societies against time revealed that Korean heights remained relatively unchanged through to the end of the 19th century, a pattern that differs from that seen in many Western countries in which stature transiently decreases after the Middle Ages. In contrast, a sharp increase in Korean stature was observed at the beginning of the 20th century, similar to trends seen in other nations (although exact timing varies in different countries). There were no accompanying changes of stature sexual dimorphism. The data reported in this study reflect the unique historical experience of Korea; the relative isolation of Joseon society, the late onset of modernization (at the end of the 19th century), and the later occurrence of industrialization (during the 1960s). Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.