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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

Despite government effort to boost the birthrate, there is a continued decline. According to Statistics Korea roughly 98,000 babies were born in the 1st quarter of 2017. That's a more than 12-percent drop compared to the same period a year ago. In contrast, the number of people aged over 65is predicted to surge by at least 500,000 annually. Low fertility rate and a rapidly aging society are two main factors expected to be economic challenges for Korea. The number of people in the working demographic group,comprised of those aged between 15 and 64 had been on a steady rise until 2016. The number dropped for the first time in 2017 and showed no signs of slowing down much less reversing.

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 Koreas 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.

South Koreans use mental health service less than Nigerians, South Africans, Americans, Latinos, Australians, and Israelis. In South Korea, culture-influenced personal beliefs (knowledge about mental illness and stigma) play a substantial role in shaping individuals' attitudes toward mental health service. The stigma of mental illness, such as those concerning major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, alcohol-related problems, generalized anxiety disorder, hypochondriasis, and social phobia, substantially influences the attitudes of South Koreans and reduce the utilization of mental health services.

Human beings in many countries will be living to the grand old age of 90 on average by 2030, scientists predicted 22 February 2017, upending many prevailing assumptions about longevity - but also raising serious questions about how this global paradigm shift can and will be accommodated. The first beneficiaries of this demographic revolution, researchers believe, will be women born in South Korea. This is attributable to improvements in its economy and education, reduction in death among children and adults from infectious diseases, improved nutrition, and declining rates of smoking. A notable exception to the trend is the US, where a lethal amalgam of obesity, deaths in childbirth, homicides and lack of access to healthcare is predicted to cause life expectancy to rise more slowly than in most comparable countries.

With the lowest birth rate among OECD member nations, Korea is at high risk of diminished population. With youth unwilling to marry and prohibitively high costs of child-rearing, fewer and fewer people are having children. South Korea is struggling to boost its rock bottom birth rate, one of the lowest among rich countries. According to the research services projections, South Koreas population would become completely extinct by 2750 if the countrys birth rate of 1.19 children per woman continues. The country currently has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, leading only Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Singapore.

By 2014, it had the lowest birth rate among the 34 OECD member countries. In 2013, the number of newborns stood at 436,500, a near 10-percent decrease from 2012. This meang only about 8.6 babies were born among a population of one-thousand -- the lowest since the year 1970, when the government first began recording population data.

The age of pregnant mothers meanwhile was getting higher, which is one of the main contributing factors for the country's low birth numbers. In 2013, the average age of mothers who gave birth was 31.8 years old, point-two year older than the previous year One in five of them were aged 35 or older.

The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs says the low birth rate trend will affect the labor force in the long-run. The number of able workers between the ages of 15 to 64 is estimated to stand at 37.2 million in 2016 and is expected to steadily decrease to less than 9.5 million people by the year 2100. "The country's labor productivity will greatly fall with the growing rise of the aging labor population as there are less newcomers joining the work force." The researcher emphasized the need to come up with comprehensive measures to ease the burdens families face when raising children, particularly policies that would help parents balance work and family life.

In a country with a conscription system, like Korea, a low birth rate is cause for concern. Jane's Defence Weekly, a military and corporate affairs magazine, underscored that in a June 2014 report saying Koreas low birth rate could be a serious problem in terms of national defense. Korea has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agencys World Factbook showing that Koreas total fertility rate stands at 1.25, putting it in 219th place among the 224 countries surveyed.

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