Monday, July 13, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Korea

The National Statistics Office (NSO) released its previsions for world population in 2050 : 9.15 billion inhabitants, compared to 6.829 on July 1st, 2009. That's a 13.4% increase.

Over the same period, South Korea will decrease by 13.1% from 49 to 42 millions, and dive from the 26th to the 46th rank in terms of population.

Older, more mixed, Koreans may also have a little bit more room to breathe. Nowadays the World's third most densily populated country, Korea is not that far from leader Bangladesh (490 inh. per sqkm vs 1,142) if you take into account the mountains covering over two thirds of the territory.

You can't beat demographics, and the national birth rate has been a tragedy for years. But many things can happen by 2050. I'm not sure North Korean regime will still be alive and kicking for the Korean War centennial celebrations. And this will have a major impact for population migrations within the Peninsula and beyond. You can be sure infrastructures will follow (ie railway race between China and Russia).

Likewise, China will have a major impact on the region. Taiwan has already been de facto reclaimed, and different scenarios can be made depending on how democracy or tensions rise in the Middle Kingdom.

Finally, climate change will play its role. Forty years may not seem much, but people will necessarily feel the difference at the key latitude where harbors freeze during winters.

One thing is sure : forty years is an eternity for real estate speculators, who keep fueling an insane bubble. Koreans are used to replacing "old" buildings every 20 to 30 years, but they don't seem to realise that their business model is simply not sustainable anymore. What is being built now will be around much longer than expected, not necessarily fitting the needs of a not so far future.

Seoul Village 2009

ADDENDUM 20100202

Sign of the times : to revive agriculture in Korea, the government will train one third of foreign-born women living in farming communities ("S. Korea to train foreign-born women in farming" - Yonhap News 20100202). You would think investing in education and Korean language were more a priority but no. (Re)productivity first.

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