Korea has a dismal future in terms of the population of babies as it is expected to see fewer and fewer babies born amid its persistently low birthrate.
It already saw the number of newborn babies fall below 400,00 for the first time last year. The total fertility rate -- the average number of children born to a woman aged between 15 and 49 over her lifetime -- also fell to a record low of 1.05.
The prospect for this year is if anything worse. There were 30,862 new birth registrations nationwide in January, down 247 or 0.8 percent on-year.
Cited as major factors are plunging marriages amid recession and tight job market. And these are not improving. Others think changes in young people's attitudes to marriage are to blame.
According to Statistics Korea, 5.6 out of 10 unmarried people thought positively of marriage in 2008, but that dropped to 3.8 out in 2016.
Another unfavorable condition is that the generation now at marriageable age were born when there was still a preference for sons among parents, so men in that age bracket outnumber women by 10 percent.
"More and more people in their 30s are thinking of not getting married at all, so we are likely to follow Japan's path, which has a big proportion of people not getting married either out of choice or because they are unlucky," said a Statistics Korea spokesman.
Korea already has higher percentage of unmarried men in their 30s than Japan at 44.2 percent to 40.6 percent, while the proportion of unmarried women is at 28.1 percent close to Japan's 28.9 percent.
The government is trying to boost the birthrate with subsidies for fertility treatment. A total of 20,854 babies were born last year by couples who had medically assisted conception, up 1,118 from the previous year.
The number has been increasing, but only around 1,000 per year on average, which is not enough to turn the trend around.