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[Opinion] Population Crisis

Posted September. 16, 2004 22:11,   


“Bare Branches” is a word used to describe poor bachelors who cannot get married in China. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, flood, drought, starvation and poverty caused people of Hefei in Northeast China to kill just-born female babies to save food. As a result, the ratio of women to men in that province became 100:129. Those Bare Branches, who could not find a wife, expressed their complaints politically. The result of their rage was the Nyen Rebellion in 1851.

It is not just another part of history. The current sex ratio in China is 100 females to 120 males. Out of five wannabe grooms, one has to live by himself involuntarily. This is the result of the one-child scheme, in which parents only gave birth to boys. Korea’s situation is not so much different. The sex ratio is 110.03. If fewer daughters means better treatment for women, it is not much of a problem. However, according to Brigham Young University Professor Valerie Hudson’s book, “Bare Branches,” it is completely the opposite. Kidnappings and raping of women have increased, and sexually dissatisfied single men can become social negatives and even terrorists. To suppress their complaints, the government has to either start a war and send those men there, or initiate a strict code of governance.

Korea’s amazing economic growth under authoritarianism in the 1970s was possible due to “nice” citizens who followed the two-children policy. In the developing country, decreasing the mouths to feed and increasing the number of hands to work was the power of growth. Now, Korea is worrying about the falling birth rate. With a decreasing number of babies, workforce, and taxes, but an increasing number of longer-living elders, it is inevitable that we will see economic stagflation. America’s average age is 35, and will be 40 in 2050. Germany’s is 40 (47 in 2050) and France’s is 38 (45 in 2050). This is why the U.S. sees its future as brighter than that of “aging Europe.” Their population is younger and there are more of them.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has announced that South and North Korea’s birth rate is lower than that of the world’s average of 2.69. For countries where population is the only “natural resource,” a low birth rate is a crisis. It seems that giving birth has to be made into an act of patriotism. Not distinguishing daughters and sons should be considered as a “democratization movement” in order to prevent political domination by the socially discontented.

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial writer, yuri@donga.com