Common Ground Between North and South Korea: Aging and Shrinking Populations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, North Korea, South Korea

The birth rate in South Korea, where I live and work, hit a record low this year, leading to concern about the impact an aging (and, eventually, shrinking) population might have on the nation’s society and economy.

These charts show the long-term trends, both in actual population and projected changes, according to United Nations data. I’ve added North Korea, which actually has a higher fertility rate today, for context.

First, let’s look at the populations of the two countries, which share an ethnic background and a (mostly) common language — despite the Korean War-era division of the peninsula.

South Korea has about 51 million residents, roughly twice the number of people in the North, which has 25 million. That’s the number of South Koreans who love in the Seoul metro area, by the way.

Both populations are expected to peak in two decades — and then begin to decline.

That downward trend, for now, is much more pronounced in South Korea because of the nation’s low birth rate. Having a large family in South Korea, where housing and education costs are pricey, isn’t possible or practical for many people. The nation also has relatively weak maternity leave policies (and stubbornly traditional gender roles in the home and workplace), leading women to postpone childbirth to pursue their careers.

South Korea is slightly smaller geographically (about the size of Indiana, in terms of area) than the North (roughly the area of Pennsylvania). So their respective population densities vary, too:

Here’s how South Korea has grown, in five-year-increments, since 1950 — when the Korean War began and ultimately changed the trajectories for both countries. South Korea saw relatively rapid growth rate immediately after the war, perhaps as refugees resettled. Projections show that rate declining by 2035:

The North experienced a rapid decline during the war, mostly likely from the death toll during the conflict, the political purges that followed — and the southern migration before the border was secured. Its growth rate soon recovered, however, but could begin declining again by 2045.

Here’s hoping the Korean fertility rate rebounds, or the two nation’s unify — or either becomes more welcoming and accommodating of immigrants. At things stand now, South Korea could become “extinct” by 2750 — a worrying (though simplistic and imperfect) simulation for a uniquely homogenous society that traces its roots back thousands of years.

Mapping South Korea’s Total and Foreign Populations — by Municipal District

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

South Korea, my adopted home for almost two years, has about 50 million residents as of the last census, in 2015. Most of them are settled in the country’s urban areas. About 22 million residents, for example, live in Seoul, the capital in the country’s northwest corner, and its adjacent province, Gyeonggi.

As an experiment to create a choropleth map with D3 and NPR’s dailygraphics rig, which drives most of the visualizations here, I’ve mapped the total population by municipal districts. In this example, Seoul is outlined with red:

I am, of course, not a citizen of South Korea. I’m a “foreigner” — as we’re referred to here. This is where the 1.3 million foreigners — many of them ethnic Koreans who immigrated from China — have settled across the country. Again, Seoul is outlined with red:

And this map shows the roughly 330,000 foreigners living in Seoul proper. This time I’ve highlighted Yongsan-gu, my home district in the city center:

Visualizing World Alcohol Consumption: What Beverages Do Countries Prefer?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

I posted recently about how countries consume different amounts of alcohol — and how some have wider gender gaps when it comes to booze.

The previous posts relied on two data sets from the World Health Organization, which calculates consumption (in liters and grams) based on surveys and actual import, exports and sales data. The organization, a reader noted recently, also breaks down the consumption totals proportionally by beverage.

This chart shows each country and its relative tastes for beer, wine, spirits and “other,” which, in South Korea at least, is mostly soju, a fermented rice beverage that’s not easily categorized.

Are People in Colder Countries Taller? (Continued…)

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Weather

Earlier this week I posted two scatterplots examining the relationship between a country’s average temperature and its male residents’ average height. The data show some correlation, but there probably are several of other factors affecting height as well.

The earlier plots shaded the country dots by income and region, allowing more context about the groupings of countries (hint: Europe is colder and taller).

This next version, however, proportionally sizes the dots by population, adding another layer of context (or perhaps unnecessary complexity).

Are People in Colder Countries Taller?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Weather

I got married in Amsterdam. One thing I remember most about my time in The Netherlands is the obvious height of the locals. Both men and women, generally, are quite tall.

A new study supports my anecdotal observation. Dutch men are the tallest people in the world (women there are second), followed closely by some of their European neighbors. People in Southeast Asian and African countries are, on the other hand, shorter.

I’ve always wondered why the Dutch are so tall. Is it their dairy-rich diet, perhaps? Or could there be a correlation between the lower average temperatures in Northern Europe and its apparent height advantage? Are people taller in colder countries?

The answer is … sort of.

How Much Differently Do Men and Women Drink Alcohol — By Country

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Uncategorized

A few months ago, I wrote about the novelty of a McDonald’s selling beer at one of its restaurants in South Korea — a first for the fast-food giant in Asia.

The story wouldn’t have been complete, of course, without the context of South Korea’s raging alcohol consumption. People who drink here do so more heavily than their counterparts in most countries around the world, especially when compared to fellow rich nations, according to a survey by the World Health Organization.

The country-by-country comparisons from that story are plotted below.

South Korean Women (Especially Young Women) Fear Crime More Than Men

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Crime, Demographics, South Korea

The recent murder of a young woman in Seoul’s Gangnam district has prompted discussion about the treatment of women in South Korean society, including lingering gender inequalityharassment and even physical violence.

Perhaps that concern — expressed anecdotally in media stories about the crime and the angry public response it provoked — could help explain why women and men here view the threat of crime differently.

A national government survey two years ago asked about a variety of societal issues, including the “main cause” of South Koreans’ anxiety.
korea-crime-gender

Murder Rates in the U.S., Korea

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Crime, South Korea

korea-homicideNote: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

Among the many benefits of living in South Korea is its relative safety. Crime, it seems, is low — even in Seoul.

But a particularly heinous crime recently — the slaying of a young woman in Seoul’s trendy Gangnam district — has rocked the country and got me thinking again about crime here.

How common, for example, is murder?

Mapping South Korea’s Foreigners

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

korea-foreigners-seoul

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

This week I looked at the population of foreign residents in South Korea, charting national origin and geographic distribution around the country. But if you don’t live here (and even if you do) that geography can be quite difficult to absorb without maps.

So, after a year of procrastination, I finally got the courage to tackle the detailed census and geography files from the Korean Statistical Information Service (you try loading Hangul characters in a database!).

South Korea’s Foreigners, Over Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

Yesterday we looked a the most-recent data on foreign residents in South Korea, breaking down their home countries and new locations.

But how has this changed over time?