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Development Overview

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Overview of Korea’s development experience

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Development Overview
Social Development Population

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Population

Population during period of turmoil

At the time of independence, there were an estimated 16 million people living in South Korea. Up to 1960, the population grew in spite of the war and economic difficulties. One reason was the large number of Korean immigrants. Between 1945 and 1949, 2.1-2.5 million people came to South Korea from Japan, Manchuria and North Korea, which accounted for 10-12 percent of the entire population in 1949. The population grew by a record annual rate of 6.1 percent between 1945 and 1950.

Death rates during the Korean War rose sharply, with an estimated 1.68 million dying between 1950 and 1953. The crude death rate between 1950 and 1955 was 32 per 1,000 people. During the war, 300,000 South Koreans were absorbed by the North and 650,000 North Korean refugees fled to the South, resulting in a net influx of 350,000 to the South (Tae-hwan Kwon and Doo-seop Kim, 2002).

In 1955-1960, the “baby boom” led to an annual population growth rate of 3.1 percent, which, excluding immigration, is the highest rate in Korea’s demographic history.

Furthermore, most of the returning Koreans decided to settle in urban areas rather than go back to their rural hometowns. Most of them went to Seoul or cities in its adjacent provinces (Gyeonggi or Gangwon), which produced rapid urbanization in the central region of Korea. This caused the government to take population control seriously.

Source : SaKong, Il and Koh, Youngsun, 2010. The Korean Economy Six Decades of Growth and Development. Seoul: Korea Development Institute.