As population dwindles, most cities could disappear

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As population dwindles, most cities could disappear

Most Korean cities may not make it into the next century.
 
By 2117, 96.5 percent of Korean cities and districts will likely be extinct, according to a "Low Fertility Rate and Aging Society Audit" released by the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea (BAI) earlier this month.  

 
The root cause is that Korea's population will shrink to 15.1 million in 2117 from 51.36 million in 2017 because of a prolonged low birthrate.  
 
In Seoul, 23 districts including Jongno, Seongdong, Jungnang, Eunpyeong, Seocho, Gangseo and Songpa have the risk of extinction by 2047 -- in the next 26 years.  
 
By 2067, or 20 years later, 15 districts including Nowon, Geumcheon and Jongno will face a high risk of extinction. 
 
By 2117, or 96 years from now, all districts in Seoul except Gangnam, Gwangjin, Gwanak and Mapo will be extinct, according to the report.  
 
Population extinction is calculated by dividing the number of fertile women in a population aged 20 to 39 by the population over the age of 65.  
 
If the number is between 0.2 and 0.5, the local population is considered at risk of extinction. When the number is below 0.2, the local population is categorized as at high risk of extinction.  
 
In Korea’s rural areas, all parts except Busan city’s Gangseo district, Gwangju city’s Gwangsan district and Daejeon city’s Yuseong district are considered to be at high risk of extinction by 2117.  
 
Places that are estimated to survive the centennial have been found to be centers of research, development, industry, work and education that can attract young people.  
 
Overall, Korea’s population is expected to plummet from 51.36 million in 2017 to 36.89 million people in 2067, and to 15.10 million people in 2117.  
 
With an expected population of 2.62 million people in 2117, Seoul will retain 73 percent of its current population.
 
Population declines in rural areas are expected to be steeper.  
 
In 2117, Busan will have 730,000 residents or 22 percent of its current population, and Gwangju will have 350,000 or 23 percent of its current population .  
 
In Gyeonggi Province, which is one of the rare areas in Korea seeing population growth now, the population will be one third of its current size in 100 years.
 
The speed of aging in Korean society is accelerating as well.  
 
In 2018, the country officially became an aged society as the proportion of elderly (aged 65 and over) exceeded 14 percent.  
 
In 2068, the proportion of elderly is projected to grow to 49.5 percent. By 2117, the proportion of elderly will account for half the nation’s population.
 
While the report seemed shocking, Lee Sang-ho, a researcher at the Korea Employment Information Service, said that things could be worse in reality. 
 
“The results drawn from this audit report are actually relatively conservative,” said Lee. “Cities may disappear even faster than predicted.”
 
Lee urged the public to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.
 
“Our aging population will have detrimental social, political and economic impacts, and yet, our perception of the problem is still naïve,” Lee said.  
 
“If we do not change the national system to be more sustainable for the future, Korea’s cities will not survive the aftermath of low birthrates and an aging society.”    
 

BY IM SOUNG-BIN, LEE JIAN [lee.jian@joongang.co.kr]
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