The Population of South Korea

The country that is growing up way too fast

Population History

South Korea will suffer in foreseeable future because although its population is highly-enlightened and evenly-located, there are not enough children being born or young people immigrating to stem the aging population or maintain the highly functioning society in that South Korea enjoys today.

After 1950, although the death rate increased in South Korea due to the war with the North, caused by military and civilian casualties and disease, four millions ethnic Koreans cross the 38th parallel into South Korea, so the population was not severely affected.

In the 1960's 42% of the population was younger than 15. This was due to the brief period of heavy economic activity that took place shortly before the war. Officials urged parents not to have children. It sparked a campaign that convinced many to only have one child. Since that time, many steps have been taken to prevent the feared "population overflow" of South Korea. This had devastating effects that are visible today.

Current Population

The current population of South Korea is aging rapidly, and it is already one of the oldest. Between %10 and %15 of the population is over 65 years of age. Not only do these people not work, but they also do not make many economically beneficial purchases. They also require health care, which is typically provided by the people who should have been born in the past 15 years. Their numbers will grow with the addition of those who are 45-64 now in the next 15 years.

The birth rate is very low , set at 1.24 births per woman, far below the world average of 2.5 births and the minimum required for population stability, set at 2.1 births. (measured in total fertility rate, which measures children raised, as opposed to children born in a single year). On the other hand, the life expectancy is 81 years, and the median age is around 40 years, ensuring an increase in seniors in the not too distant future.

There will be consequences from such low birth rates. Naturally, as large number of people over 65 provide for a high death rate, a low birth rate can't sustain a population that is constantly dying.

At this rate, by 2136, South Korea will have lost 40 million of its 50 million inhabitants, which would be an absolute population catastrophe. By 2413, Pusan, the second largest city in South Korea will be uninhabited.

By 2750, with no alterations made, South Korea's last citizens will die out. Of course, there is much that will happen between now and then, presumably. This is the scope of the current situation.

The effect of Korean culture on the population.

Korean culture does actually effect the population significantly. The Korean culture is very resistant to immigration. %95 of Koreans have never met a foreign born person. Nearly half had never even spoken to one.

Because the country is culturally disinclined towards immigration, the persistent low birth rate combined with the aging population may continue if allowing foreigners into Korean society is not seen as an effective solution. Unfortunately attitudes towards foreign influence remain hostile, and the media often reports a higher incidence of domestic violence among people in the mixed race demographic (that is, people with one parent or more who is not an Ethnic Korean alone).

In Korea many children have no siblings. This is because of the prevailing mindset that it is better to have one child whose future the parents invest fully in than several children whom the parents must support.

Many South Korean parents choose to enroll their children in private school or enrichment education. For most people, this expense tends to drain the funds of Korean parents, the demographic that is often responsible for buying cars, houses and other big ticket items that drive an economy.

The society of South Korea is not especially accommodating for women who wish to pursue a professional career and have children as well.

Government Campaigns, Relations, and Political Influence

So far, the government has been working to resolve the current crisis, only to no avail. However; in the past the government has been responsible for many of the systems that lowered the population.

For a long time, South Korea was concerned with the idea of there being too many people in the tiny nation. Posters from the 1970's implored everyday Koreans whether they really wanted to have a nation 60 million strong.

South Korea legalized abortion in 1973. In 1984, health benefits and tax aid for single parents with three children or more were both cut, followed by the same for two-parent families with two children or more. Still, Korea has never decided to force sterilization, even though the idea had taken root at one point in the early 1980's.

The public ministry also makes service announcements which stress having one child (preferably male, as the sons take care of the parents in their old age) and other Confucian values.

All men born in South Korea must serve in the military in order to defend the country from the increasing threat of their northern neighbor, North Korea. South Korea drafts the men for service periods of 2-3 years in order to secure the DMZ (demilitarized zone which serves as a buffer between the countries. If South Korea wants to maintain their way of life and be continually able to defend their borders from attacks, they need a standing army of young people, age 20-30, the exact demographic which is lacking.

Otherwise Korea's relations are very strong, in good standing with the US, even having developed friendship with China, Korea's historical enemy and a friend to North Korea.

That being said, the government of South Korea has not addressed possible solutions and continues to affirm that there are too many people. Although the government appears to be stable, it would take nothing short of cultural reconstruction to change the people's attitude towards having more than one child. Despite this there is hope; Government ministers have recognized the problem and offered immigration as a possible solution. Korea has a lot to offer and there are many that might take advantage of its economic prosperity.


Seoul has existed for over a thousand years. Built on a flat valley, where it was suitable to grow rice, all of the major road infrastructure in Korea leads to Seoul.

The growth of cities and their increasing inhabitance normally fosters a higher birth rate (as long as the living conditions are optimal, which they are), but in South Korea, the work and family environment has long been hostile towards growth.

In the 1950's, people who were fleeing war in the countryside flooded into the cities. Afterwards, many whose land had been taken by North Korea remained in Seoul and other cities.

The cities continued to grow and prosper and the baby boomer generation did have an effect in Korea. In the 1980's, the last slums and shacks of Seoul gave way to sprawling residential districts, economic hubs and soaring skyscrapers. But the Population stopped growing.

The environment that was supposed to foster the next generation of Koreans is now destroying Korea.

Climate and Natural Disasters

In the legitimate event that North Korea does attack the South and eradicate a sizable chunk of the population in nearby Seoul, or elsewhere with a military force, nuclear or otherwise, South Korea may be unable to recover. It may bring the population flop even sooner than predicted. This is the biggest threat to Korea as the army is small with an unbalanced population, and the aging civilians of Seoul may have trouble defending themselves.

Korean climate is temperate and hosts four distinct seasons, of which winter can be harsh, but is not unbearable. Blizzard occur but produce little lasting accumulation.

Volcanoes are not a threat. Typhoons typically do not result in a loss of life, but do cause damage to buildings and infrastructure. Korea needs workers able to repair the damage of typhoons, which occur naturally 1-3 times a year. Currently, precautions made to advert the damage of strong storms are adequate.

Strangely, Korea does not experience powerful earthquakes despite not being far from the Pacific plate's border. Tsunamis, although uncommon do pose a threat as the coastal populations could be quickly wiped out, and as Korea is a peninsula, a tsunami could approach from any side.

Famine has occurred in the past, however, there is no data as to whether they will return. As long as their are people to run farms or import food, there is no famine. Droughts are not known to occur.

Overall, climate and natural disasters are a minimal threat, while North Korea is a source of greater concern.

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