Seoul (AsiaNews) - If the South Korean birth rate does not dramatically increase over the next five years, then in a little more than a century, the national population will drop from the current 50 million to about 10 million; moreover, following these trends it will face total extinction.
This alarming statistic was contained in a study by the National Assembly Research Service, which has published a a simulation at the request of New Politics Alliance for Democracy. Currently the national birth rate stands at 1.19 children per fertile woman, one of the lowest in the world. In 2006, research by Oxford University showed that, at this rate, the South Korean people "could become the first nation in the world to become extinct".
According to the projection, Korea's population will fall to 40 million in 2056 and to 20 million in 2100. In 2200, the population would decrease to three million and to one million by 2256, gradually becoming extinct over the next 500 years. The southern port city of Busan would be the first to become empty of people, according to the simulation. The last survivor of Busan will be born in 2413, and the last Seoulite in 2505.
The projection is catastrophic, but is based on real socio-economic factors: the thrust is towards economic growth, but to obtain this young people do not marry and do not reproduce considering the family a "waste of time" compared to improving their employment status and earning capacity.
Despite the efforts of government and religions to push couples to have more children the numbers continue to decline. Now the whole system of social welfare - health and pensions - is at risk. Well aware of this, the Catholic Church has always been involved in programs to support the family and procreation. Issues related to genetics and cloning are highly sensitive in Korea given the fact that it the first experiments related to reproduction of human cells took place here.
In July 2012, the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs officialy acknowledged the problem and asked the government to intervene with policies to support the family. According to analysts, "too many people shy away from the idea of marriage and having children. The government must create a new system that provides health care and insurance to those who decide to start a family. We also need a complete change of mentality, which is perhaps the most worrying factor".