South Korean Health System Overview
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Population, Mid-Year 2019: 51,225,000
Projected Population Mid-Year 2030: 51,152,000
Percentage of Population Under Age 25 Years, Mid-Year 2019: 24%
Percentage of Population 65 Years Or Over, Mid-Year 2019: 15%
Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019: Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/424).
Share Of The Population Aged Over 65, 2019: 14.9%
Projected Share Of The Population Aged Over 65, 2050: 39.8%
Share Of The Population Aged Over 80, 2019: 3.4%
Projected Share Of The Population Aged Over 80, 2050: 15.6%
Adults Aged 65 And Over Rating Their Own Health As Fair, Poor, Or Very Poor, 2019 (%): 77.1%
Estimated Prevalence Of Dementia Per 1,000 Population, 2021: 11.8
Projected Prevalence Of Dementia Per 1,000 Population, 2050: 41.2
Source: OECD (2021), Health at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ae3016b9-en.
“Given that aging in South Korea is closely associated with its depopulation, it is essential to interpret the aging outcomes with the support of population change maps. Figures 4a and b portray the population changes between 2020 and 2050 with different age categories. The former shows the total population change by taking all ages into account. Sejong is the only region that can expect population gain by 2050, whereas the rest of the regions will have to lose population (Fig. 4a). The latter demonstrates the change of “senior” population whose age is equal to or more than 65 (Fig. 4b). From this map, it is apparent that the three regions (namely, South Chungcheong South, South Gyeongsang Northwest, and South Jeolla South) will experience a decrease in senior population size, unlike the rest. Such drops signify that these three rural and remote regions are even losing senior population, in addition to losing their total population (Figs. 4a and b). In contrast, the rest of the nation will gain enormous senior populations. Sejong will likely experience the most radical aging between 2020 and 2050.
“It is critical to note that aging processes differ over regions; thus, plans and policies with respect to mitigating the population aging must take such regional differences into account. For instance, promoting fertility—by introducing governmental subsidies and supports—has been regarded as a significant method in fighting against the nationwide aging and depopulation in South Korea. However, such a method is not likely to work in the rural and remote regions because these areas have already lost their population momentums. In other words, those regions’ aging is already so severe, there are not enough females in the population who can give birth to children to begin with; hence, any governmental subsidies that are geared towards promoting fertility cannot be effective. Given this context, mitigating the extreme urban and migration transition of South Korea, which is still on-going, is more urgent in terms of easing the aging in the rural and remote areas. However, the South Korean government does not seem to even acknowledge the fact that the nation’s radical age transition and depopulation is strongly associated with migration and urban transitions (Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy, & Ministry of Health and Welfare 2019). If the urbanization migration pattern is reversed—which is, of course, an ideal situation—the reversion can bring fertile female populations to the rural and remote areas. Then finally, a series of plans to promote fertility proposed by the South Korean government may actually work.”
Source: Kim, K. W., & Kim, O. S. (2020). Super Aging in South Korea Unstoppable but Mitigatable: A Sub-National Scale Population Projection for Best Policy Planning. Spatial demography, 8(2), 155–173. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40980-020-00061-8
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Page last updated Sept. 14, 2022 by Doug McVay, Editor.