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10/23/2017 Special > Special


The Fastest, Oldest, and Gravest!

Korea and its aging society


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What adjective can describe Korea the most fittingly? Perhaps, one can argue it would be the word fast. On the surface of Korean society, some clues are shown to account for this argument: fast delivery, fast internet speed, fast drivers and walkers, fast development of technology, and fast working speed. Korea is especially remarked for its incredible economic growth rate over the past four decades, becoming the only country to overturn its state from a beneficiary to a donor. However, unfortunately, the adjective does not only apply in positive aspects but also in a negative direction as well: Korean society is aging at a rapid pace!
What’s going on?
By 2060, 40.1 percent of Korean population will be 65 or
older, thus becoming a post-aged society.
(Photo courtesy of The Korean Herald)

According to the census conducted in 2017, Korea’s population reached 51 million with the population growth rate of 0.5 percent and the birth rate of 0.83 percent—153rd and 220th in world comparison, respectively. In contrast to this strikingly low rate of population growth, the nation’s life expectancy seems to get higher, currently averaging to 82.4 years, due to technological development enhancing medical field. This is accompanied by low death rate, counting six deaths per every 1000 population.

What do these data suggest? Korea is only getting older and there are no signs of population growth in the future. The significantly low birth-rate and the increasing life span play a big role in changing the demographic structure drastically, possibly bringing up the median age of Korean society from 41.2 to 52.6 in a couple of decades. Analysis based on statistics revealed that after the population peaking at 52 million in 2030, it will start to fall from then. More alarmingly, more than half of Koreans will be older than 52 in 2040 and people aged 65 or older will make up 40.1 percent of total population in 2060. Korea is evidently on the brink of transforming from the aging society to an aged society fast!

The fence or the ambulance?

So why is Korea having such problem? What is the root cause? In a word, all this situation could be blamed to the low birth-rate, which plays the biggest role in shaping the demography and in navigating the future of Korean society. Why do young generation so often refuse to get married and have children? In the past, when Korea was going through a big economic development, there seemed to be far broader range of opportunities for people to make a living because the competition was not as fierce as it is today, and the blue ocean was somehow greater. As Korea entered the phase of stable development, however, the quality of life has greatly increased, and people began competing for what is better and the best.

The culprit for this phenomenon, I believe, is ambiguous. It is true that due to societal factors such as financial stability and promising occupation, people are either convinced or deterred to get marriage or have children. But is it really the fault of these factors that people are looking away from the possibility of marriage and reproduction? Frankly speaking, the real reason is because people are ambitious. In the past, just as much as there were opportunities for people to become successful, there were difficulties and risks in having numerous children and raising them but people still went through the hardship. Can this mean being not “rich enough” to have children is just an excuse to avoid the duty?

In other words, other than societal factors such as unemployment and unstable income, a lot of people refuse to have children is because of their ambition. In this fierce society, people are full of goals and strive to achieve them as much as they can. Maintaining livelihood has become a difficult task today, thus people will not be favorable to any factor that could get on th way. Realistically speaking, the duty of taking care of children and raising them came to be regarded as one of those factors, due to a large amount of time and money required in doing so. Though it is not completely impossible to consider the option of having a family, people view it as something burdensome and try to avoid it for themselves. The society today have turned people into reality-oriented thinkers!
This illustration connotes greed that is never satisfied.
(Photo courtesy of

Jeon Chae-yun
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