Research by Miriam Quick. Illustrations by Valentina d'Efilippo.
When countries undergo economic change, the effects of the transition aren’t only financial – they have major population implications, too.
This is very much the case in South Korea where, over the last three generations, the country has evolved like few others due to rapid industrialisation. Today, South Korea has a $1.6 trillion economy – the fourth largest in Asia after China, Japan and India.
As South Korea has transformed so too has its population, and very quickly at that, leaving the country in a true population paradox.
It is undergoing an extreme, rapid example of what demographers call the ‘demographic transition’, a period of population swell, decline and eventual stabilisation that occurs as countries get richer. For South Korea, this means both a large, rapidly ageing population as well as a low marriage and birth rate that doesn’t adequately replace the dying generations – quite a conundrum for the future of the nation.