[FOUNTAIN]Inter-Korean unions need to be on tableChinese Premier Wen Jiabao has a unique law of multiplication and division. In an interview with the Washington Post in November, 2003, Mr. Wen said, “Any small problem multiplied by 1.3 billion will end up being a very big problem. For a very big aggregate divided by 1.3 billion, it will come to a very tiny figure.” Here, 1.3 billion is the population of China.
The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping frequently mentioned the population of China. He boastfully said China fed 22 percent of the world’s population with only 7 percent of its arable land. When Western critics pointed out the poor human rights condition in China, he responded that China’s human rights priority was to be well fed. He also added what sounded like a threat: “What will happen if the Chinese economy worsens and tens of millions of people move to neighboring countries?” He was referring to the floating population in China, which was estimated to be 80 million at the time.
While Beijing is worrying about its ever-growing population, expected to reach 1.6 billion in the near future, developed nations are troubled by diminishing populations. Singapore, the majority of whose population is ethnic Chinese, is one of them. The concern of Singaporean authorities is the decreasing proportion of ethnic Chinese among its citizens. When the country was established in 1964, ethnic Chinese made up 90 percent of the population, but the figure dropped to 70 percent this year. In order to boost the ethnic Chinese ratio, the Singaporean government invited students from China. In return for a four year scholarship, the student has to stay and work in Singapore for six years after graduation. In those six years, they become old enough to consider marriage and the Singaporean authorities hope they will marry and settle there. In addition to boosting the population, the plan also brings talented workers to Singapore.
For the first time in Korea’s history, the number of deceased is expected to exceed the number of newborns in South Jeolla Province this year. The National Statistical Office forecasts a net decrease in the total population will begin in 2020. According to the Population Association of Korea, there will be no one left in Korea by 2954 if the birth rate of 1.2 is maintained. How can we boost the population of Korea? We cannot borrow people from China like Singapore, so why not encourage marriage between South and North Koreans? There is an old saying that South Korean men are handsome and North Korean women are beautiful. Just in time, the six-way talks have seen a breakthrough. In the next inter-Korean ministerial meeting, I hope the representatives discuss the issue as a part of their agenda.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.