Korea - People
Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world. As of 2011, the population of the Republic of Korea stood at 49,779,000 with roughly 486 people per square kilometer. Conversely, the population of North Korea as of 2010 was estimated at 24,051,218
Historically, the threat of rapid population growth posed serious social repercussions on developing countries. Yet such fears of swelling growth hardly raise much cause for alarm on the peninsula. With the advent of successful family planning campaigns and changing attitudes, there are signs that the population growth has curbed remarkably in recent years. The baby boomers of Korea’s industrialization period are now coming into their golden years, with the number of senior citizens (those ages 65 and up) reaching 5.42 million (as of 2010) and making up roughly 11.3% percent of the entire population.
Koreans are primarily from one ethnic family and speak one language. Sharing distinct physical characteristics, they are believed to be descendants of several Mongol tribes that migrated onto the Korean Peninsula from Central Asia.
In the seventh century, the various states of the peninsula were unified for the first time under the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935). The resulting homogeneity has remained largely preserved to this day, enabling Koreans to maintain a firm solidarity with one another.
As of the end of 2011, South Korea's total population was estimated at 49,779,000. The population of North Korea is estimated to be around 24,051,218 (2010).
Korea saw its population grow by an annual rate of 3 percent during the 1960s, but growth slowed to 2 percent over the next decade. In 2005, the rate stood at 0.44 percent and is expected to further decline to 0.01 percent by 2020.
A notable trend in Korea's demographics is that it is growing older with each passing year. Statistics show that 7.2 percent of the total population of Korea was 65 years or older in 2009; by 2010, this same demographic group made up 11.3% of the population.
In the 1960s, Korea's population distribution formed a pyramid, with a high birth rate and relatively short life expectancy. However, age-group distribution is now shaped more like a bell because of the low birth rate and extended life expectancy. It is projected that by the year 2020 youths (15 and younger) will make up a decreasing portion of the total population, while senior citizens (65 and older) will account for some 15.7 percent of the total population.
The nation's rapid industrialization and urbanization in the 1960s and 1970s was accompanied by continuing migration of rural residents to the cities, particularly Seoul, resulting in heavily populated metropolitan areas. However, in recent years, an increasing number of Seoulites have begun moving to suburban areas.
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