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The Republic saw its population grow by an annual rate of 3% during the 1960s, but growth slowed to 2% over the next decade. In 2008, the rate stood at 0.33% and is expected to further decline to 0.02% by 2020. A notable trend in the population structure is that it is getting increasingly older. The 2008 population estimate revealed that 10.3% of the total population was 65 years or older, while those aged 15 to 64 years of age accounted for 72.1%. In the 1960s, the country's population distribution formed a pyramid shape, with a high fertility rate and relatively short life expectancy. However, age-group distribution is now shaped more like a bell because of the low fertility rate and extended life expectancy. Youths (15 and younger) will make up a decreasing portion of the total, while senior citizens (65 and older) will account for some 15.6% of the total by 2020. 4

The crude birth rate (annual number of births per 1,000 population) has been declining over the years. In 1970 the rate was 31, twenty years later in 1990 it dropped to 16. By 2006, the crude birth rate was 9. 5

In recent years, a low fertility rate has emerged as a serious social challenge. The total fertility rate dropped from 4.53 in the 1970s to 1.26 in 2006, among the lowest in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Government is working to tackle the issue by establishing comprehensive plans to create family-friendly workplace environments and bolster childcare policies. This rapid population ageing is causing concern regarding sustainable development as it will reduce the economically active population, hold back economic growth, narrow the tax base, and lead to tensions between generations. 4


4 WHO, Regional Office for the Western Pacific, Republic of Korea, www.wpro.who.int/countries/2008/kor/

5 UNICEF, At a glance: Republic of Korea, www.unicef.org/infobycountry/repkorea_statistics.html


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