Korea Aging Faster Than Expected

By Kim Dong-seop | February 22, 2017 12:56

Korea will likely become an aged society this year, which is a lot earlier than demographers expected. Over-65s already make up almost 14 percent of the population, according to the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday.

A country is defined as "aging" if the percentage of the elderly population exceeds seven percent, which happened here in 2000, as "aged" if the proportion exceeds 14 percent, and as a "super-aged" when it is over 20 percent. As of January, there were 7.03 million elderly people over 65 in Korea or 13.6 percent of the population.

The number of elderly people born between 1949 and 1951 who turned 65 in recent years stood at between 430,000 and 450,000, contributing to an increase of about 200,000 every year in the elderly population if those who die are subtracted.

But the number of people born in 1952 who turn 65 this year stands at a whopping 570,000, increasing the elderly population by some 300,000, which will lead to a proportion over 14 percent.

Last year, Statistics Korea predicted that the country would become an aged society in 2018.

On current showing the country is expected to become super-aged in 2026 because baby boomers, 700,000 to 900,000 of whom were born every year between 1955 and 1963, will start to join the demographic in the meantime.

Many farming and fishing regions are already super-aged, including South Jeolla Province with a 21 percent elderly population. North Jeolla Province (18.4 percent), North Gyeongsang Province (18.3 percent), and Gangwon Province (17.3 percent) will follow soon.

Seven countries already have an elderly population of over 20 percent including Japan, Italy, and Germany, according to UN population statistics in 2015. Forty countries like Sweden and France hover between 14 and 20 percent.

Korea still ranks 53rd in terms of the percentage of the elderly population but will overtake Japan and top the list in 2060 due to its rapid aging population and low birthrate, the UN predicts. That will put enormous pressure on pensions funds and the social safety net.

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