Health and Healthcare Systems

This chart shows South Korea's population is ageing and shrinking

image of Seoul, Korea

Birth rates are declining in many developed nations, including South Korea. Image: Unsplash/Yohan Cho

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
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Republic of Korea

  • Research shows that the number of residents registered in South Korea is falling.
  • Between 2011 and 2020, the number of people younger than 25 years old dropped from 15 million to 12 million.
  • While the number of Koreans 55 and older has increased from 11 million in 2011 to 16.7 million in 2020.

After the number of residents registered in South Korea had already shown a decline for 2020, the fact that the country’s population is decreasing is now cemented by the release of births and deaths data.

In 2020, births in South Korea declined by 10 percent to 272,400 while deaths stood at 305,100, confirming that the country’s population has declined for the first time.

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2020 might have been the first year with an actual decrease in population, but as our graphic shows, the balance between young and old Koreans has been changing for a while now. Government registration data shows that the number of young and even working-aged people has been in decline. While in 2011, there were still almost 15 million people younger than 25 years old living in the country, that number has declined to 12 million in 2020. Those 25 to 54 years old now number 2 million fewer, while the number of Koreans 55 and older has increased from 11 million in 2011 to 16.7 million in 2020.

While birth rates are declining in many developed nations, the high cost of raising a family independently in the country is deterring many young South Koreans. Better medical care means that seniors are living longer lives, making demographic change even more drastic. Many young South Koreans have also left the country in search for better work opportunities, while immigration to the country is not yet developed enough to make up for the continuously low birth rates.

a chart showing the population of South Korea by age group (2011-2020)
The number of Koreans aged 55 and older has increased by 11 million from 2011 - 2020. Image: Statista
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