Go to contents

“Zero” Birthrate in the Countryside

Posted September. 03, 2004 22:04,   


“After my sixth-grader son was born, there have been no newborn babies in our village.”

Kim Yong-seok (46), village administrative head at Hachon-ri, Daeeui-myeon (Myeon is a subdivision area of South Korea), Euiryeong -gun, South Gyeongsang Province, said yesterday, “Out of 120 residents in 60 households, over 100 residents are over 65 years old.”

Daeeui-myeon, with a population of 1,300 where 20 villages including Hacho-ri are located, had only two reports of births in 2003. This year recorded eight births; however, after deducting babies of Japan expatriates, only three newborn babies reside in the area.

This phenomenon sufficiently demonstrates the sharp drop in birth rates in the countryside villages, where the younger generations leave for cities and only the older generations remain.

According to the local governments in the South Gyeongsang Province, a birth rate survey showed that last year, over 54 myeon-level areas in five counties such as Euiryeong, Namhae, Sancheong, Habcheon, had zero birth rates for over one month. These local areas have advanced to become “super aging societies” in which over 20 percent of the total population is made up of over-65-year-olds.

In the six myeon-unit areas of Hawjeong and Yugok (Euiryeong-gun), Sangju (Namhae -gun), and Obu, Saengcho, Samjang (Sancheong-gun), they had no birth reports for nine months in 2003. Also, there had been zero birth reports for eight months last year in Chilgok, Jeonggok, Gungryu (Euiryeong-gun), Yurim (Hamyang-gun), and Ssangbaek meyon (Habcheon-gun).

Plenty of myeon-unit areas record just two to eight births annually. However, some of the reports are exaggerated numbers, since many public servants who keep their identification registry in the countryside to follow their local governments’ policy of “blowing up the population in the countryside,” in reality live in nearby cities.

Once, the local governments in the South Gyeongsang Province provided incentives and free gifts to encourage people to have children, but they scrapped all promotions after discovering that those material perks were not effective.

Jeong-Hoon Kang manman@donga.com