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found that the country's population fell by 123,000 last year. This is because the number of babies being born continues to decrease. The country's total fertility rate was 0.78, the lowest since statistics began, and it was also last among OECD countries. This problem, which has been invested 280 trillion won but is still unsolved, will be discussed in detail from now on.

First, Joe Ki-ho is a reporter.

A banner was hung above
the tightly closed elementary school gates saying thank you.

This is Hwayang Elementary School in Seoul, which will close next month.

This is because the number of new students has plummeted due to the decline in the school-age population.

[Kim Yong-chul/Gwangjin-gu in Seoul: I can't see the kids. There were two stationery spots in front of me right now. This is the stationery seat and that is the stationery seat. There are no stationery at all, this is a few years ago.]

In Seoul, schools are already closing due to a decrease in the number of students.

The situation is worse for daycare centers, with more than 8,000 closures across the country in four years.

Last year, the number of births was 249,000, down more than 11,000 from a year ago.

Last year, the total fertility rate expected to be a woman in her lifetime was 0.78, the lowest since statistics were compiled in 1970.

It has been the last OECD country for 10 years and has less than half the average fertility rate.

While the number of first children is up from the previous year, the number of second and third children has plummeted by 17% and 21%, respectively.

With 192,000 marriages last year, a record low, the trend of having only one child is getting stronger.

[Ms. Lee Mo/Woman who has given up on marriage: It seems that it is difficult to raise children while earning double income, and it also costs a lot of money for private education. As an adult, it is also difficult for me, but what kind of hope do difficult adults have to have children and raise them well....]

Due to the aging population, 372,800 people died last year, the highest number in the last 10 years.

As a result, the population naturally declined by 123,800, the third consecutive year since 2020.

As the population cliff is sticking, the total population of Korea is predicted to fall to 40 million in 2045.

There are growing concerns that as the number of economically active people shrinks, productivity will shrink, which in turn will lead to a decline in consumption and a contraction in investment, reducing overall economic vitality.

(Video Interview: Choi Ho-joon, Oh Young-chun, Kang Dong-chul, Video Editing: Choi Eun-jin)


Many analysts believe that delays in
marriage and fewer families with children are due to the fact that the time of economic independence is getting late. It takes a long time to graduate from school, get a job, and settle down to a certain extent, so marriage and childbirth keep getting pushed back.

This is Jaehyun Park.


Although legally an adult, the period before becoming independent is called the "adult transition."

Unlike in the past, when people were employed immediately after graduating from school and married in their 20s, the rate of going to university has increased to 73% since 2000, which has led to a longer period of education and a higher age of employment, which has delayed the age of self-reliance.

In fact, more than 50% of people consider themselves adults at age 28.

Longer periods of adult transition inevitably delay marriages and births.

Unlike what used to be thought of as "marriage to become an adult," what young people consider a "symbol of self-reliance" are conditions such as economic independence, employment, and housing.

Only 1 in 10 young people now cite marriage as a symbol of self-reliance.

A strong perception that marriage and childbirth can only be achieved after a self-reliant and stable foundation is also a major factor in the decline in the birth rate.

[Kim Kyu-bin (22 years old): If I can afford it, I would like to have one or two children, but I can't say for sure. I wonder if I can give good support...]

There are loud voices calling for moving away from measures against low birth rates, which were focused on childbirth and child-rearing in the past, and supporting young people to become economically independent and choose to marry.

[Kim Hyung-joon (31 years old): I think we need a support policy suitable for young people, and in the middle, I am a young man who is new to society and preparing for marriage, and I need support for housing (etc.)]

[Yu Min-sang/Research Fellow, Korea Youth Policy Institute: Still, marriage and childbirth are (still) preferred options, and for those who can't choose, we need to support them to make good choices, and forcing them is an unpolite policy....]

(Video Interview: Jeon Kyung-bae, Video Editing: Lee So-young, CG: Je Gal-chan and Park Chun-woong)


Let's talk more with reporter Jaehyun Park, who covered
this story.

Q. The input cost of low birth rate is 280 trillion won... The effect?

[Park Jae-hyun: Since 2006, the cost of solving the problem of low birth rate has reached 280 trillion won. However, as you can see, the result is disastrous. It should have reduced the burden on young people to marry and give birth.Eighty percent of the budget was devoted to infants, children and adolescents. 2015 was the same year that fertility rates began to decline sharply. However, it was not until 2015 that the budget for youth increased to 1 trillion won. As a result, it didn't have the expected effect.]

Q. Low birth rate in the metropolitan area... What causes overcrowding?

[Jaehyun Park: According to the results of the auditor's research, the birth rate decreases as the population density increases. This is because the youth of the metropolitan area postponed marriage and childbirth because of such fierce competition and anxiety about the future, and if we think about this in reverse, we can see that the balanced development policy of the province, which creates a good job and educational environment in the province, is helpful in the long run.]

Q. Is there a solution?

[Reporter Park Jae-hyun: An expert said that he can hear the screams of young people based on the current situation. However, there are also research results that telling these young people why they don't get married or why they don't have children has a negative impact on marriage and birth rates. Along with the measures mentioned above, of course, we need to improve the reality of single-family parenting. But in the end, the most important thing is to change the social atmosphere and support young people so that they can choose marriage and childbirth on their own.]