February 28, 2019 13:20
The number of deaths hit a record 298,900 last year and is expected to surpass the 300,000 mark for the first time this year.
Figures had been between 200,000 and 300,000 since 1970. As a result, Korea's population is expected to begin a natural decline in 2021, eight years earlier than Statistics Korea had projected before.
Some 298,900 people died last year, up 13,366 or 4.7 percent from 2017, Statistics Korea said Wednesday. People aged 70 and older took up 70.1 percent of those who died, slightly up from 69.3 percent in 2017.
"The number of population aged 80 and older is increasing by 100,000 each year thanks to a longer lifespan," a Statistics Korea official said. "At the same time, the number of those who die of old age is also rising."
As a result, the number of deaths will likely exceed 300,000 this year and is expected to increase by about 10,000 each year from next year. Some 423,000 Koreans are expected to die in 2030.
The number of births meanwhile is falling fast. In 2008, births still outnumbered deaths by as much as 600,000, but that has fallen to 27,900.
Prof. Lee Sam-sik of Hanyang University said, "The natural population decline will likely begin in 2021 even if we project that the total fertility rate will stay at about 1, a little higher than last year's 0.98."
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