The Republic of Southern Korea has changed at an alarming rate since the end of the Second World War. At the end of the war in 1945, majority of the people living in South Korea peninsula were poor peasants (South Korea – society 2011). There was a negative impact on most Koreans from the Japanese colonial regime from 1910 to 1945 that promoted modernization of the society, since the intention was to serve Japan. Since then, South Korea has evolved dynamically to an industrial society (South Korea – society 2011). By 1990, education and health standards had risen, and most of the people were living in urban areas (South Korea – society 2011). An emergent complex structure of social class was evidenced, and it resembled the social structures of developed western countries. Additionally, the country started making significant improvement as it evolved from a military dictatorship to a democratic political system. This study has reviewed, in an objective manner, the population, immigration, and urbanization of South Korea Country.
South Korea has witnessed a rapid population growth with cities having a large number of people. The population of South Korea is reported to be about forty nine million people, basing on the 2010 census (Asiarooms.com, 2011). Following this, the population density of this country is about 480 people per square kilometer. The country’s capital city, Seoul, is among the most populated cities all over the world and has a population of over ten million people ((Asiarooms.com, 2011). Beginning from the year 1970 up until the 1990s, South Korea experienced economic growth and in the course of that period, there was much rapid migration taking place in the urban centers. Other cities in this country that are highly populated include; “Ulsan, Daejeon, Busan, and Daegu” (Asiarooms.com, 2011, para 1). The northwest region of this country is the region that has greater concentration of the population (Asiarooms.com, 2011).
Basing on the statistics presented by the “South Korean National Statistical Office”, about twenty five million people “do not express any religious belief” (Asiarooms.com, 2011). The large portion of the remaining population holds either the Christian or Buddhist faith. Other religious groups in the country do exist including the Wonbuddhism and Jeungsando religions. The biggest Christian church, “Yoido Full Gospel Church”, has a total number of 780, 000 members and it is located in Seoul (Asiarooms.com, 2011).
People in South Korea greatly share the same heritage; linguistically as well as ethnically and it is only a small number of people belonging to the Chinese community that have their own culture and tradition (Asiarooms.com, 2011). The county’s population has seen migration of many of its citizens to the U.S and Canada. However, following the improvement in the country’s economic as well as political situation, the emigration process has been brought down (Asiarooms.com, 2011). South Korea population has also witnessed a rise in the number of the people who are not citizens coming in the country. Basing on the statistics that were presented earlier on, “there were 378, 000 non-Koreans in April 2005” (Asiarooms.com, 2011, para 4).However, over 50 percent of this population had illegally entered the country. Most the people who came to South Korean were mostly from such places as the former Soviet Union nations, Southeast Asia nations and from Nigeria (Asiarooms.com, 2011).
The South Korean population has shown a rapid increase trend since the 1949 census, which marked their first official census (Savada and Shaw, 1990). From 1949 to 1955, the population registered a slow growth rate of about 1.1 present with a total count of 21.5 million (Savada and Shaw, 1990). Ten years later in 1966, the growth rate increased, and the population was 29.2 million (Savada and Shaw, 1990). Since then, the government becomes aggressive in addressing birth control measures, which has helped in attaining a slow growth rate in 2007. Decline in population growth rate has continued; in 2010, the total rate of fertile Korean women was 1.2 present, one of the world’s lowest (Savada and Shaw, 1990). This low fertility rate has led to an aging population that is unable to grow and support its elders. The government is currently in its efforts to enact social reforms that encourage families to have more children. The population is expected to cease to grow by 2023, and the growth rate will be approximately 0.9 percent (Savada and Shaw, 1990).
The South Korean citizens were known to move to other countries to stay there but, with improvement of the economic and political situation and the need for international marriage, the country has received an increased number of immigrants. Immigration of people takes place when a foreigner goes to a country aside from his/her original country for the purpose of permanent residency (BrainyQoute 2011). Immigration occurs due to different reasons such as economic, political, natural disaster among others (United States Immigration, 2011). Moving to another country looking for work, to study, or for any other reason does not make someone an immigrant. For one to qualify to be an immigrant, one must be a citizen of another country, and goes to a different country with the intention of permanently living there (United States Immigration, 2011).
South Korea, due to its strategic position, has a history of conflicts, invasions, and occupations. The Japanese colonial era led millions of Koreans to migrate to China, Japan, and Russia up to date (Migration Information Source 2011). After the colonial era, South Koreans migrated to the United States for studies or in search of quality living. Recently, it has an increased foreign population due to its homogeneity; foreigners who legally stay for more than 90 days are required to register to the authorities (Migration Information Source 2011). In 2003, they registered about 438,000 foreigners in their population (Migration Information Source 2011). South Korea is one of the world’s densely populated countries, and it has experienced the largest rates of emigration to China, the United States, Japan, and countries of former Soviet Union (U.S. Department of State 2011).
It is reported that South Korea used to be an migrant source country and it used to send miners and nurses to Germany, plantation laborers to the U.S and the construction workers to the Middle East (Kim, 2011). However, this was later reversed during the 1980s, making Korea to be a receiving country (Kim, 2011). It is reported that, the number of “foreign residents in South Korea increased to 1,208, 544 in 2010 which was a 4.6% increased as compared to 2009” (Kim, 11, p.4). Up until the close of the 1980s, the country was in a position to realize sustained development without workers from the foreign countries for the reason that it had adequate cheap worker (Kim, 2011). However, from the start of the 1990s, the decreasing birth rate in the country and increasing labor costs brought about shortage in the labor supply and particularly in what is referred to as the “dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs” (Migration Information Source, 2004).
In the presence of economic development as well as urbanization, a large number of people migrated from the rural areas to urban centers. The young population moved to the cities to look for better paying jobs and better living conditions (Migration Information Source, 2004). Following this, South Korea witnessed “a chronic shortage of women to be married in the rural areas, and therefore international marriage set in to fill the demand in the rural areas” (Lee, et al, 2006, p. 170). The cases dealing with international marriages in the country are dealt with by “dating service companies” who are paid a commission (Lee, et al, 2006, Kim, 2011).
South Korea experienced a rapid growth in its urban areas, which was caused by the migration of large numbers of people in their response to the newly industrializing economy. Considering the term “urbanization”, this refers to “a process in which an increasing proportion of an entire population lives in cities and the suburbs of the cities” (The Urbanization of the World, n.d, p.1). It is pointed out that Seoul City was the largest urban city in the 18th and 19th centuries, with a population of about 190,000 residents (South Korea-Urbanization, 2011). The 1930 Japanese industrial development in the Korean Peninsula led to a growth of 11.6 per cent of the urban population (South Korea-Urbanization, 2010).The South Korean urban population grew from 14.5 per cent to 65.4 per cent between 1945 and 1985(South Korea – Population, Country Studies 2011). The economic planning board estimated a 78.3 per cent increase of the urban population by the end of the 20th century (South Korea – Population, Country Studies 2011). The increase in the urban population was attributed to migration as opposed to natural growth. Seoul, other major cities, and mining communities were considered urban due to the living conditions and the occupation of its dwellers (U.S. Department of State 2011)
The Korean War was accountable for the major dislocations, hence the rapid increase in the urban population in the early 1950s (South Korea-Urbanization 2010). Thousands of refugees moved into the cities. The post-Korean war period contributed towards people taking an initiative to depart from their rural homes in order to go in search of better economic and educational opportunities that could be found in the cities (South Korea-Urbanization, 2010). In the 1960, immigration turned out to be as a serious problem since the rural areas were losing its energetic and youthful population, which was their main source of labor force (South Korea-Urbanization 2011). The urban area also suffered from terrible overcrowding (South Korea-Urbanization 2011).
In the 1970s, the Korean government formed a new community movement with the aim of rural reconstruction and self-help movement to improve the economic conditions and bridge the wide income gap between the rural and urban dwellers as well as curb further urban migration (South Korea – Population, Country Studies 2011). The government did not achieve its objectives as the number of older people living in farm grew by 2 per cent and that of the youths declined by 0.5 per cent (South Korea – Population, Country Studies 2011).
Current statistics show that South Korea is one of the leading fastest growing urbanized countries with more than 80.8 per cent of its population living in the cities (South Korea-Urbanization, 2010). Other developed countries have almost the same percentage but they come at a slower rate than South Korea (South Korea-Urbanization, 2010). A reduction in Korean fertility, development of rural areas, and increase in rural-urban migration will help in spreading the urban population. To the present, the country still experiences the challenge of a wide gap between the rural and urban wealth (South Korea-Urbanization, 2010).
In conclusion, the rapid increase in the Koreans’ urban population and the resultant depopulation of the rural areas remain to be their main demographic issues, since more than half of the population live in the seven largest cities. A number of South Koreans citizens are living temporarily abroad as business executives, students, construction workers, or technical personnel but they are returning to South Korea after the improved economic conditions.
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