Rise of the ‘Sampo’ Generation in Korea

As the Korean population ages, there is ongoing debate on how to “fix” the low birth rate problem. Many new policies have been created in response, but netizen comments reflect a general sentiment that a broken society, not lack of government policy, is the problem. Thus the rise of the “Sampo Generation” – those who choose to give up three things central to what is normally considered a complete life; relationships, marriage, and raising children.

A man pops bubbles representing a child and a family as a woman walks past.

A man pops bubbles representing a child and a family as a woman walks past.

Article from Yonhap News:

“It’s difficult to raise children in this country.” Korea’s birthrate lowest in the world.

Korea’s birthrate ranks 219th out of the world’s 224 nations, lowest in the OECD.

Why is the so-called ‘Sampo’ generation – giving up relationships, marriage, and childbearing – rising?

Korea has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. The crude birth rate, meaning how many births for every 1,000 people, is also among the lowest.

Among the OECD nations, Korea’s birthrate is the very last, while the crude birth rate excluding Japan is the lowest.

There is circumstantial evidence that the conditions for marriage and childcare are not amenable to having a child.

According to the CIA World Factbook, based on this year’s estimates, Korea’s aggregate fertility rate would end up at 1.25, 219th out of the 224 countries evaluated.

The aggregate fertility rate is the number of children a woman is likely to have over the course of her lifetime.

Singapore came in last at 0.80, and Macao second-to-last at 0.93.

Taiwan came 222nd at 1.11, Hong Kong in 221st at 1.17, and the British Virgin Islands tied with Korea for 219th at 1.25.

Those with the highest aggregate birth rates were African nations. Nigeria came in first with 6.89, and in descending order, Mali (6.16), Burundi (6.14), Somalia (6.08), and Uganda (5.97).

Among the top 50 are African nations, as well as Afghanistan (5.34, 9th), East Timor (5.11, 15th), and Iraq (3.41, 46th) – nations that have all suffered recent wars.

Among the OECD nations, Korea came in dead last.

[Among the OECD] Israel at 75th came in the highest (2.62), with Mexico (2.29) at 94th, France (2.08) at 112th, New Zealand (2.05) at 117th, and USA (2.01) at 122nd.

The two nations with the largest populations, India and China, came in 80th (2.51) and 185th (1.55) respectively.

North Korea came in 129th (1.98), and Japan in 208th (1.4), both ranking slightly higher than South Korea.

The rate of births per 1,000 people, or the crude birth rate, is in a similar state.

Korea’s crude birth rate, at 8.26, ranked 220th out of 224 nations.

Monaco, a small country in the Mediterranean, [had a crude birth rate of] 6.72, was the lowest. The Saint Pierre et Miquelon Islands in North America were in 223rd with a crude birth rate of 7.7. Japan came in 222nd with a rate of 8.07, following Singapore’s 221st ranking with a rate of 8.1.

Niger’s crude birth rate ranked first at 46.12, followed by Mali (45.53), Uganda (44.17), Zambia (42.46), and Burkina Faso (42.42)

Mexico ranked highest among the OECD member countries at 91st with 19.02. Israel, Turkey, Ireland and the US ranked at 101st (18.44), 114th (16.86), 132nd (15.18) and 150th (13.42).

In 86th was India with a rate of 19.89, China with 12.17 at 163rd, and North Korea took the 138th spot with a rate of 14.51.

A couple is crushed by the weight of their house.  Graphics showing "house poor" divided by age and income.  The blue circle represents the   house poor among age range, along with their yearly salary.

A couple is crushed by the weight of their house. Graphics showing “house poor” divided by age and income. The blue circle represents the house poor among age range, along with their yearly salary.

Korean people’s reluctance to have children is the main reason for Korea’s near last-place aggregate birth rate and crude birth rate.

As women participate more in society, they also marry later. On top of this, saving up enough jeonse for a newlywed home has become overly burdensome due to higher jeonse prices.

A new term, “Sampo Generation,” has been coined to describe those who respond to the current societal situation by giving up relationships, marriage, and child-rearing.

Low birth rate from now on will bring about a decrease in population, there will be a shortage in the working population that will lead to decreased productivity, decrease in consumption, and so on.

Comments from Naver:

The President doesn’t have kids. Why should we?


Can’t get married, let alone have children.


With the current price of things, if you were to earn a gross income of 40 million won a year, honestly it would be a stretch to take care of just one person and have a car. You can think about getting married, having kids or whatever only if there is some money left over. Is having a child just the end of it? So you’re not gonna give it any education? Ke ke, are they just telling only rich people to have kids? Tsk tsk


Before anything, it’s because raising children is difficult. Even if you try to raise a child, it could die at kindergarten, die on a field trip, die on an MT, or get bullied and kill itself…


This kind of news is good. Fortunately, it seems many people might not have children and make them suffer in this country.


This is a country where you have to be on time to work in the morning but there’s no set time to finish work in the evening, and they trick you into not even getting minimum wage. This is Korea where there are countless companies that make you stay busy and work overtime, but don’t properly pay for it. To make competition, they feign multiculturalism to get foreign workers, opening the flood gates indiscriminately for undocumented foreigners…


Stop just asking us to have babies over and over. Why not get some policies that make a country in which we want to have them? Or, just ask the rich Chaebol to have some kids. Why are you making a fuss?


I’m in my late 20’s but I can’t even dream of getting married… I have a girlfriend but marriage? There’s no money I have saved. I only make 20 million won a year. It would be too hard to make a living with a child.


You can’t raise children on love alone.


The economic structure is the problem. Even if you work for the rich your whole life, you can’t get out of poverty. It’s an endless cycle. It’s not that I don’t want kids, it’s that I can’t have kids.


Best in the world at the worst things, worst at the best things! Ke ke ke


Number one in the OECD in rates of minimum wage workers, suicide rates, occupational fatalities, and elderly poverty rates. Number two in yearly working hours. You can make a huge deal over a national income of 30,000 dollars, but when there are over ten million people who can’t even make 1.39 million won a month, when there are over 2.08 million people who can’t even make minimum wage which is less than half the minimum wage in advanced countries…hey, there won’t be enough slaves to exploit and get taxes off of in the future, ke ke.


As we’re always comparing ourselves to other OECD member countries, try comparing something else, too. Compare working hours and think about how much people get for those. Think about the fathers who have children right now. How much can they play with them? Look at the advanced countries – every weekend they’re with their kids… but Koreans? Got enough time? Got enough money? Can barely buy a house, and then just look at the education policies. Private academy fees for the kids are no joke, either. Do you think it’s like the old days, when we could just pop out kids and get them food? If you think that’s it, then don’t have kids. Don’t get married, either.


This is hilarious. We’re born as the same humans, but our lives are too different. If you’ve got money and status, you can have a child and raise it well. If you don’t have any money or status, just getting married is a burden. Are people all equal? Really, I’ll curse Korea until the day I die.


If you just pop out kids, hoping that they will grow up and help you out, everyone will suffer. If you aren’t confident to make your family happy, just live alone.


I’ve got two children. Psy’s song “Father” makes me cry. If you are willing to work like a dog, go ahead and have kids. Otherwise, the answer is living a free and good lifestyle with no kids. It’s the truth.


After some time on Earth, I realize marriage is unnecessary. I am wasting my life on house chores, childcare, and taking care of jesa for the in-laws. Even though my job wasn’t the best, living alone and still working there would’ve been ten times better an investment in myself. My husband just lives for his clubs, splitting his money on his hobbies and sporting events, while I just climb the nearby hill or hang out in the neighborhood public library to save money. I devote my life for my family but if they’re in a bad mood, they easily get annoyed by me. What am I, a modern slave? The powerful people would only care about population for getting taxes and selling things for a living. Marriage is just a prison to ordinary people!


But we’d be the number one country for politicians to enjoy their lives, right?


We’re a country that asks people to work till late to pay taxes so the government will watch children till late hours….. What a rotten country. Before running after-school classes or whatever, make it possible to raise children with only one of the parents working outside… Kids should be raised by their parents…tsk tsk


It’s hard to raise children only with a man’s salary in this country. You can only live here if the woman earns money, too. How can the birth rate go up?

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  • norimix

    Korea facing growing pains of modern society..

  • If the two Koreas reunite, the birthrate would double/triple lol

    • Minty Badger

      If the two Koreas reunite…South Korea would have an even larger underclass to exploit. Not sure they’d be better off.

      Looks like Koreans have this topic pretty well sorted out. Nothing more to say there. The rest of society is being crushed to prop up the parasitic upper classes…I guess they’d be called commies if they discussed it too much.

      • bigmamat

        Exactly. In the other article I suggested that South Korea had bought the American way of doing things hook line an sinker. What SK needs is labor unions, stronger labor laws and enforcement of such laws. There may be some societal changes that also need to take place as well. If working a good paying factory or technical job will reduce you to second class citizenship then it’s no wonder Korea is having a difficult time filling those jobs. I was under the impression that the Korean jobs crisis was a lot like our own here in the US. There are jobs but they are low paying even in sectors where pay should be commensurate with education and skill due to the global recession.

    • balls

      It says NK’s rate is 1.98. So it’s only going to bring the average for a unifeid Korea up to around 1.6. The initial instability and economic burden of reunification would probably see the birth rate remain static or possibly even decline, for a decade or so. But eventually it may start to increase.

    • Insomnicide

      Not so sure with that death rate….

    • ok maybe it was a bad exsampo

    • TapeTape

      Yeah, if or when the two Korea’s unite, it will be a social disaster, for starters. They don’t even speak the same language, and many people here already don’t talk to people outside their circles, why would they talk to Northerns, especially with the stereotypical stubbornness, Im sure the Northerns also have this. Then. the youngsters with their poor job chances and social problems wll have a s++tfit when they have to pay out to support the North. Idealism is nice, but pragmatism needs to be the norm here.

    • takasar1

      I doubt that. the fertility rate in the north is already below replacement level

  • death_by_ivory

    The more advanced a society in education lower the birthrate is.
    And Israel is the highest?Don’t let me start on that. Most Israelis give birth to kids with zero will to raise them.In my recent visit there,we ate out a lot.In every single restaurant families sit with their brats(3-4 of them) who run around screaming in the restaurant.Not 2 years olds,bigger ones too.The parents not even once say:Please stop and settle down.My own daughter was in shock from this ,not understanding.
    It wasnt a single incident,everywhere is the same.If that what high birth rate means,no thanks.

    • FuzzTape

      This is not Korea’s situation, Im sorry to say. Its because of the barbaric, outdated rules and cronyistic society that thrives. The education system does little more than to exacerbate it. Israel, I cant comment on.

  • Chucky3176

    “when there are over 2.08 million people who can’t even make minimum wage ”

    This is the kind of bull shit argument that drives me up the wall. They’re not making minimum wage because they can’t find work, it’s because they don’t want to work in manufacturing or small/medium sized companies – because that would make them look stupid in front of others. So they would rather be unemployed, live with their mom and dad, extend their university studies to more years, and then sulk on the internet that there are no jobs. You want jobs? Start appreciating hard work – even manual jobs and jobs that are available in the SME companies. Who cares what others think as long as you work hard and honestly?

    Meanwhile, Korea has to import 200,000 foreign workers a year from Asia, just to fill all those empty positions that go begging. How come uneducated foreigners have no problems getting jobs in Korea, while over educated university grads can’t make minimum wage?

    You can’t afford high private education costs for children? Then don’t send the kids to those schools. You don’t have enough time to spend your time with your family? Then stop attending so many of those after work hour drinking sessions to impress your boss. Until enough people learn to stand up for themselves and what they believe, nothing will change. The government can do so much change the culture, it’s up to the citizens to bring change.

    • commander

      Your condemnation of young people for their reluctance to take a physically strenuous job sounds right.

      But I think “when there are over 2.08 million people who can’t even make minimum wage ” means that they may be some people who are not physically capable for working.

      Although I have the thought that young people these days only want to work as highly-paid white collar office worker without considering their capability, I stronglybelieve that this nations, which spend the least amount of budget in building social safety nets in the OECD members, should reinforce welfare assistance to the socially disadvantaged, including providing quality education by using which children of humble origin could achieve great things, with the result cultivating a sense of community across society at large.

      • Ken Morgan

        Have you ever read the Wolf report? Essentially UK education was/is a sham and state funded colleges (College as in UK 16-19 age grouping not University as college is in the US) are no better than Korean Haegwons. Colleges would run obsolete courses and use out of date materials, they did this not because they couldn’t afford new materials or update the courses. They did this on purpose so their students would be unemployable and would HAVE to go back into education allowing them to make fat profits even though they aren’t supposed to be profit making companies.
        Ex-corporate bosses now run colleges shows where it has been going.

        They did this so they had a captive market of students who would find it difficult to get work with their qualifications. For instance in 2013 a local 6th form college was teaching computer programming they were using PASCAL which was out of date in 1975 let alone 2014, not C not C++ not Java or anything modern, but PASCAL.

        The UK government condemned them strongly, ordered a few cosmetic changes and it is business as usual. A local car mechanics course for instance I heard from a student they learned about drum brakes and carburettors, obsolete technology as all cars have disc brakes and fuel injection.

        • David

          In fairness, I learned Pascal in 1980 and it was still useful.

          • Ken Morgan

            Sure, but that was 34 years ago, do you consider that aside from the fact it has some useful functions it is relevant to the IT industry today?

          • David

            No. Absolutely no use in the last 15 years.

    • Protip

      oh look at mr high a mighty here berating others for not willing to take on low end jobs. I wonder if you yourself would take on such a position?
      but of course, you wouldn’t need to because you are a highly educated and successful professional, who has obviously ‘gone through the hard yards’ as it were, which incidentally makes it very convenient to tell others how to get on with their lives so that maybe one day they might turn their miserable life around to be like you?

    • Ken Morgan

      Look up wage arbitrage as to why they import people from Asia. In Europe we have people like you, people who complain that the youth are lazy and won’t do the jobs at the bottom. While immigrants will do those jobs ergo our own youth is lazy.

      Not so, people from the Eastern Bloc come to the UK because there is massive wage arbitrage, they earn £6.50 (UK min wage) the employer sees a wage bill of £6.50 an hour. But take this wage back to Poland one of the wealthier Eastern bloc countries and it has the purchasing power of £25. Take it to Romania or Bulgaria and it has the purchasing power of £46.

      Migrants bunk together to save on costs, they have always done this, my parents lived 2 families per room in the 1960s, eastern europeans do exactly the same to save on taxes and rent.

      Secondly the hard work = working your way up, this hasn’t been true for a while. Consider why human resources is named that and became popular because employees are just considered another input and the uber system of worshipping money means they want to reduce this input as much as possible. As such employees have no loyalty and no security and therefore spend less which destroys jobs.

      Thirdly manual jobs really? this is 2014 not 1990. In 1994 I was 16. I worked at a bread factory they had a massive production line with at least 350 people working there, I worked there for several summers. They would always advertise heavily for employees and would pay more for night shifts. By 2003 the whole plant had been automated. I’d moved into auditing by then and was witnessing vast amounts of automation removing manual jobs.

      Fourthly relates to point three, if manual unskilled jobs are vanishing, you need to educate your children and upskill them as much as possible. Else sure keep them out of good schools they get to the age of 16 what can they do? work manual jobs which are being automated away or taken my wage arbitrage? (just look at things like taxis these will be automated by 2020).

      The old in my day argument holds no water and you’re proposing breeding a generation and giving them handicaps.

      • bigmamat

        Chucky has old dude syndrome. He thinks the younger generation is just lazy and spoiled and wants to work in an air conditioned office. He thinks they should settle for factory jobs after they’ve wasted their parents money and their childhoods in hagwon. The problem with Korean labor is not willingness to work or put in hours. It’s lack of labor laws, unions and enforcement of labor laws. The article here prior to this is about companies refusing to tell potential hires how much money they will be making. How do you get anyone to work for you when they don’t know what they will be paid?

    • JohnDoe7

      I’m not too sure of your assumptions here from that statement. Does that statement means 2.08M people are unemployed or 2.08M people are taking on jobs which pays below minimum wages? Anyway, assuming you are assuming from the first scenario, I doubt many of the unemployed are freeters and there will always be some structural unemployment.

      You can’t just blame people for shunning certain jobs, there’s a reason why people got to university in the first place, to get better paying jobs. And since most jobs which requires degrees pays well, the cost of degrees is high as well. Therefore, to escape poverty and to earn more money = get a degree = but must have a well paid job to pay off uni education debts and to escape poverty.

      But what happens if there’s not enough degree level jobs? Well, according to free market theory, those unpopular manual jobs salaries should rise to attract people to these jobs. But of course nobody appreciate the value of hard work, why should any company increase the construction peon pay just because no one wants to do it? Ans: immigration, increasing supply of labour, taking advantage of the wage arbitrage suppressing wage pressure resulting from rising costs (especially housing, transport and education).

      Seriously, your solutions are so unrealistic to the average people. Don’t send the kids to those private schools? But graduate from the best schools = easier to get a good paying job = easier to escape poverty.
      Don’t attend after work hour drinking sessions to impress your boss? In a tight economy, one better ask how high if the boss says jump.

      In the end, there are no easy solutions to all these problems.

    • Guy Forget

      Exactly Chucky. Korea has plenty of jobs and but these dumbass materialistic koreans who just wanna be kpop stars and kdrama celebrities are too shallow and full of themselves, they’d rather be unemployed than to work on the farms or in factories. That’s why millions of foreigners are now coming to Korea and taking over all the small towns and growing in power and rights. Stupid. I wish that Korea was still poor like we were back in the 50s and 60s so that we’d all still be hardworking honest people instead of STUCK UP stupid girly men, “eye surgery”, “face surgery” addicted society of wimps. Korea needs to return to its modest and “Hermit Kingdom” roots and go back to being hardworking people and society. Stupid Kpop and Kdrama is prostituting Korea to the world. All the men speak about Korean women as tramps and prostitutes because that’s what they are showing in their videos and stupid lyrics like, “Touch my body”. What kind of a stupid song is that? Korea is killing themselves via it’s MTV culture and only the Media moguls will make billions of dollars profit off it the death and destruction of young koreans who will grow up to be so messsed up they don’t believe in getting married and having children. 50 years from now, Koreans will be an ethnic minority in their own country and monkey migrants will reap all the benefits and rewards for working the DDD jobs and settling roots in this land. Then we’ll be looking to the pure North Koreans and wishing we were as homogenous as them.

      • Guy Forget

        90% of my foreigner friends all know how to easily control and manipulate easy korean girls because today they are girls who only care about “how much money you spend on them” and about shopping for materialistic goods and funding their plastic surgeries. If you can do that, you can own any korean girl and make her do whatever you want. Korea is FOR SALE PEOPLE. If you have money, come and buy up any korean girl you want. Korea threw out their morals and hardworking, honorable philosophy roots of their grandparents generation, out the window. They are extremely shallow and very easy to manipulate with the dollar. Its such a disgrace that korean women have become this shallow. The men also are so immasculated they try and dress up like girls and be feminine and they would not stand a chance in a society of white, black, hispanic, and other foreigners that come to Korea and compete for korean women. Just watch, it’ll happen unless they return to their original roots that made Korea a strong country after being as poor as Kenya only 60 years ago.

  • ky

    shouldn’t it say “there is an ongoing debate”?

    • commander

      You’re right. But in the middle of translation and editing, some typos take place unwittingly.

      I know this cannot be an excuse for a mistake, though the koreaBang staff is working without being paid under the shared spirit that translations of what we think as important for foreigners who want to know more about S. Korea are a small but steady endeavor to bridge S. Korea, a small-sized country of growing importance on the region and the world, and the rest of the world.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      We promise we will pay a meticulous attention to every detail.

  • commander

    The House Poor, a newly-coined term for people who purchased their houses using bank loans in the hope that the prices of houses will go up and gain some profits from arbitration transactions–hopes that are smashed by a stagnant or decline in prices of houses due to government control on real estate speculation.

    As a consequence, the House Poor have to service their debt from banks at a loss.

    House loans is estimated to take up a significant portion of the aggregate household debts, which experts describe as a ticking time bomb for the South Korean economy.

    • bigmamat

      Just like it was for the American economy.

  • ytuque

    If you watch how Koreans treat pregnant women and others with small children, it’s no wonder the birth rate is so slow. Just stand outside the entrance to a mall and watch how few adult Koreans try to help women with a stroller. Watch those old witches on the metro yelling at young pregnant women that they are not sufficiently pregnant to sit in special seating.

    Why would any couple want to bring a baby into that culture?

  • Hwang Dongseong

    why is it issue? There are too many people in Korea, comparing to the size of land. So real estate price is insanely high and it’s hard to get a job. This trend is good for our mother earth and human well being.

    • bigmamat

      Yes but nations need to replace workers and consumers at least at the same rate as those retiring or dying. Low birth rates worry smaller countries even more because they realize that these workers will need to be replaced at some point in order for them to continue to grow economically.

  • Thankswww

    The current generation is propping up the generations in their 50’s-60’s, who rode the wave of artificial real estate booms through the past few decades. The price of apartments is killing these people. A cheap 3 room plastic apartment in Seoul costs as much as a new house in Las Vegas with swimming pool etc. And meanwhile, wages, miraculously are significantly lower. Real estate prices are artificially propped up by the speculation of previous generations. The generation in their 20’s and 30’s is merely reaping the fruits of their parents’ generation, in the form of grossly, shockingly, disproportionately overpriced low quality housing.

    • ImNotATroll IPromise

      Las Vegas real estate is very affordable, what are you talking about?

  • JohnDoe7

    In the old days, the concept of having children is on surface to be “happy”, to have offspring carry on the family line and for country/clans and on a deeper level, to provide economic capacity to the family and to guarantee economic security when one’s old. (why do you think males are preferred over females in traditional societies?) It’s also the result of having no birth control.

    So how does one actually justify having children in the current world, most people are educated and who cares about family line/clan/country when “in the long run, we are all dead.” and “economic capacity to the family and to guarantee economic security when one’s old” is useless if one does not invest in education and people using property prices increases/government to take care of their retirement.

    Simply put it, young people refuse to condemn themselves and their children to cycles of poverty. Besides, a childless life is shown to be viable by the LGBT community anyway breaking the myth of happiness can only be obtained through family with children.

    • David

      This last statement is just plain wrong. Most gay people in permanent relationships have as much desire for a family as straight couples in permanent relationships. They go about it differently, but the desire for family is not diminished.

      • JohnDoe7

        Same sex marriages and same sex adoption have only been legal in the last few years in a select few western nations. Same sex families with children is a very recent phenomenon. And it’s still non existent in East Asia. But the homosexual lifestyle is well known.

        The conservative opposition against homosexuals is never about a small segment of population actually having different sexual preference is against what their holy books say or the possibility of people changing their sexual preferences just because they saw a few homosexuals marching down the street (do people actually believe it’s possible? lol). It’s all about having children and birthrate.

        • David

          You seem to be under the impression that being happy with children is a meaningless lie sold to us by ‘the community’. It is not. Having a family and children does make for a richer and more enjoyable life. I have been single and now I am married and a parent. There is no comparison of the two. The latter is so much better in many different ways. Now that being said being married and a parent is not for EVERYBODY, but it has been my experience that MOST people like being married (when they learn to work together) and ALMOST everybody loves being a parent (taking into account the worry most have for not having enough money).

          • JohnDoe7

            The main point is nowadays, people have a choice. There will always be some people who is dead set on having a family and people who absolutely not wanting children on the other end.

            However, for average educated people in the middle in developed countries who have no particular strong views on this, practicalities will be their main concern. Whereas people in the past pop out babies regardless of their condition and work crazy longer hours than before just to sustain the family because a different life unthinkable and unknown, people now have a choice.

            Therefore, to encourage people to start popping out children is to make practicalities of having children better and rewarding. After all, its a free market world today, the lifestyle of having children have to compete against the lifestyle of having no children.

  • Insomnicide

    East Asian birthrates in general are dangerously low, if we don’t find a solution soon, we might be extinct in a few generations.

    • Could you broadly quantify “a few”?

    • guest

      We won’t be “extinct.” In the future. We’re gonna be like Brazil or Hawaii; a world made up of interracial people. The only solution to solve this problem is to open the doors to immigration. The white population of Australia, the USA, and Canada are declining but what’s keeping those countries’ birth rate and population steady is immigration

    • JohnDoe7

      In a few generations, we are all dead.

  • Smith_90125

    If they think low birth rates are the problem, they’re not thinking. The preference for boys over girls and selective abortion mean there will be one to two million more young adult men than women by 2025. You can’t have babies if you have no women to bear them.


    The real problem is overpopulation, not declining birth rates. The more humans there are, the more natural resources they consume and more environmental damage they cause. Declining birth rates are a GOOD thing economically, socially and environmentally. Any short term “problems” are far outweighed by long term benefits of smaller populations.

    • David

      Smaller populations mean lower standards of living.

      • guest

        Bullshit, smaller populations mean higher standard of living. With a smaller population, a country can easily provide its people with jobs, education, health care, and an overall higher quality of life. Why do you think China implemented its “One Child Policy” in the first place?

        • David

          I do not think you actually understand how economics and demographics work together in their effect on standards of living. Taking China’s failed ‘one child policy’ as some sort of measuring stick of success is completely misplaced (not to mention anecdotal by saying China did it so it must work). While there is an ideal population for a country with a given amount of resources and technology, this population number is floating, affected by many factors. A country can maintain a certain level of living standards with a stagnant population but only by using up its human resources, it is not sustainable (for instance China fights its trash problems by making all the old poor people walk around town picking the crap up. If these people had a higher standard of living and had money of their own, they would not be doing it and China could not afford to pay good wages to the army of people they would have to hire to replace them).

          There is a reason why there is a upper, middle and lower class in countries that use capitalism.

          • JohnDoe7

            Why do you think nobody except poor old people doing the job of picking trash? Maybe it’s the poor wages for such tough work which is not attractive enough for educated young people except the uneducated poor old people?

            Is it sustainable to have a under educated underpaid underclass to pick up trash? Is it sustainable for a country to have a significant underpaid population actually discouraging mechanization and automation and therefore, productivity increases (cost of labour cheaper than mechanization and automation)?

            Maybe it’s better to have a lower population growth and higher labour costs encouraging innovation in automation and creating high value jobs?

            Going by your logic, we should go back to the old days where there’s no automation because it creates jobs and hence boost the economy.

          • David

            Not at all, reducing automation does not boost the economy, in fact it normally reduces the overall level of the economy. Labor is not simply unskilled manufacturing. There is a perfectly good place for labor, it is one of the four basics needed for any business. But the education level of the labor force, in a free and open society, responds in time to market forces. We have many more people today who are skilled in computers than we had 30 years ago because the need is there. China uses its human labor in an inefficient manner but it still uses it. If you artificially reduce the labor force when the infrastructure is not set for that (as is done in central planning economics) you will have a shortage of human labor (professional, skilled and unskilled alike). So not enough doctors or teachers, not enough electricians or salesmen and not enough garbage men or factory workers. This leads to lower standards of living.

          • JohnDoe7

            And the market forces responds to the labour force too. When labour costs are low, there’s simply no incentive to build infrastructure for more automation and lower labour force. Automation infrastructure costs > labour costs = no incentive to automate

            Therefore, labour costs have to rise in order for business to start thinking about how to lower costs through either using labour more efficiently or automation.The same thing will also happen if businesses start to have lesser profits during recession period though.

          • David

            Labor costs do not have to rise for businesses to look for ways to lower their overhead. Any good businessman is ALWAYS looking for ways to efficiently and effectively lower costs (not just on labor but on everything. That is the entrepreneurial part of the business equation. As an example: When robotics were first instroduced into widespread use in manufacturing in the 70s they were not practical. The initial outlay costs were too high, there were too many limitations on what they could do and you needed more trained people to install and maintain them (not to mention unions were against them). However, eventually the manufacturers of these robots were (through good entrepreneurship) able to solve these problems and sell their uses to many manufacturing companies (the auto makers did not automate their welding procedures on their own, another company came in and sold them on the idea and the machines). The result is less manual welding in cars (thus many fewer welders) but more Quality Inspectors.

  • faves_slayer

    Very hard to read all this comments on the true nature of the country. And i’m from a country with a 25% of unemployment.

  • elizabeth

    A declining birth rate is undesirable because it would mean a diminishing pool of economically productive younger population has to support an increasing aged population. Therefore, the rants and groans from the younger generation…

    So, the government is expected to put in place policies that will raise the standard of living, i.e. raise salaries, reduce work hours, make housing affordable, control inflation, increase disposable incomes, etc. And it should reasonably do so to reduce the burden of raising a family. However, unilateral government action alone is not sustainable. Where will it get the resources to do so? Technological advancement that enhances productivity? Maybe. So what happens to the unskilled labor that is rendered useless? (Re)education, perhaps, and unless this happens at a rate that is fast enough to offset the effect of the declining birth rate.

    Hence, it is imperative that the people contribute to the pool of human resources to reverse the population decline in order to achieve higher productivity per capita by producing more babies, especially if they do not want to have foreigners ‘stealing’ their jobs. But why is this not happening?

    Yes, because society is ‘broken’ due the shift in priorities, values and attitudes. I am inclined to agree that this is one of the main problems. People have to accept it as a problem and seriously do something about it or face the consequences of their own decisions.

    • An increasing birth rate is undesirable because it would mean a
      diminishing pool of resources has to support an increasing population.

      • elizabeth

        The assumption here would be that the mortality rate is greater than the birth rate, which might not be the case if people are generally living longer than before, with other variables remaining constant.

        Nevertheless, the population issue is a dynamic equation with many variables involved (productivity, life span, retirement age, employment rate, etc.) and your perspective is certainly a valid observation that provides another reason why people need to take the baby problem seriously.

        • elizabeth

          Wait a minute, allow me to correct that.

          The assumption would be that the mortality rate is lower than the birth rate, which would be the case if people are generally living longer than before (probably true), with other variables remaining constant.

    • JohnDoe7

      Higher birthrate = Higher productivity per capita? How does the assumption come about? And I doubt the East Asian countries have an immigration problem yet.

      I doubt society is broken just because of low birth rates in East Asian countries which currently have populations way higher than historical ones. The current low birthrate is more like correction to vast population increases in the last few decades since world war 2.

      Declining population is not even an obstacle to economic growth, with Japan registering economic growth consistently since 2007 when its population starts to decline except during the GFC years of 2008-2009 and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

      • elizabeth

        The assumption is that a higher birth rate will result in a younger workforce on the whole, everything else remaining constant.

        Society is not broken because of low birth rates. It’s the other way around.

        Declining population may or may not have a negative effect on economic growth. The answer lies in the other variables. Are people working longer hours? Is the quality of life better? What about purchasing power? What are the sources of growth? What is the net gain from the trade-off? To be fair, the Japanese are certainly an innovative people.

        In short, how much of that growth is real? Just by looking at the grassroot level, the way office politics is being played and figures manipulated to achieve targeted KPIs, there more to it than just statistics.

        All that said, there is an optimal population for every country at which point a declining birth rate, especially below replacement rate, is unsustainable. By the looks of it, this is the case of many countries struggling with birth rates or people will not be lamenting the poor quality of life and retiring later.

        • JohnDoe7

          I’m not too sure about younger workforce = more productive. There are many studies proving an older workforce is just as productive if not more. Countries with more older workers like Germany and Japan doing well.

          I see the problems in East Asia is mainly about their productive urban areas are already filled to the brim with people, resulting in higher property, transport and education costs in productive urban areas which will result in higher costs to sustain families in productive areas which young people can’t live too far from because there are only jobs available in productive urban areas. And with productive urban areas still not providing enough support (eg. childcare, family friendly workplace polices)

          • elizabeth

            If you could convince employers that an older workforce will yield better returns on their investment…

            It’d also be interesting to hear the employers’ response to your anecdotal ‘evidence’ and why governments all over are still losing sleep over babies and the aging population, especially the Japanese and German government, since they are doing that ‘well’.

      • Chucky3176

        The answer is very simple for Korea, Encourage re-immigration back to Korea, from these people, ethnic Koreans from Russia and Central Asia who say Korea is a paradise compared to where they come from. This only means these people won’t take Korea for granted.



        • JohnDoe7

          Well, if they can control it well, it will work.

          The problem with immigration is that it’s an easy short term stop gap measure which is simply deferring the problem to future generations and useful only to buy time.

          Therefore, it’s very easily abused and very easily to be very reliant on. Import 10,000 people today, why not 100,000 people tomorrow instead of trying to think of ways to make people more productive? It an easy way, just like a drug.

          And like all drugs, it have a side effect. Relations with even ethnic Koreans from China and North Korea are not exactly rosy.

          • Chucky3176

            I’m not talking about open immigration. I’m talking about immigration of ethnic Koreans from Russia and Central Asia. These are ethnic Koreans are culturally Russian, and born abroad but still hold Korean culture, and have Korean value. Their only weakness is language, but that can be remedied quickly. They look like any other Koreans, and they have the advantage of being able to quickly adjusting and being accepted into Korean fabric. They should be valued way over the current crop of immigrants that Korea is currently getting. Yet these people get absolutely no help from the government who wants to discourage them from coming here.

          • elizabeth

            Just a matter of interest, why are the current crop of immigrants considered less valuable and why is the Korean government discouraging ethnic Koreans from immigrating?

          • Chucky3176

            First question, because it takes too much money, effort, and have too many problems to integrate non-Korean immigrants, as opposed to integrating those who are already familiar with the culture and have the same Korean values.

            Second question, I have no ideal why. They keep talking about “multicultural” Korea, but they are mums when it comes to bringing back stateless ethnic Koreans who are longing to go back their homeland, but can’t. The only thing that I can think of is that the Korean government thinks that Korea going multicultural with Vietnamese and Pakistani immigrants instead of the non visible ethnic Korean immigrants is a hip thing to do, which will make Korea be seen as some great country like the Western countries (sort of like a status symbol on the surface only). For instance, there are 30,000 ethnic Koreans and their 4 generation children and grandchildren, living in Sakahalin Island Russia, who were descendants of Japanese colonial laborers that want to go back home to Korea, but the South Korean governments in the past and current who are preventing them to come back. These are Koreans and their descendants from Gyeongsang province in South Korea who were deported by Japan in the 1930’s and 1940’s as slave laborers then abandoned there when Japan lost the war. South Korea totally forgot about these people and they might as well not even exist.

          • elizabeth


            The hip multicultural thing is surprising since Korea still seems very much a nationalistic society. Pursuing that probably wouldn’t bode well for one’s political ambitions.

            Maybe it’s also because the ethnic Koreans are descendants of Japanese laborers, so their loyalty to the country is be questioned.

          • KoreanAmerican

            gee really? just because someone’s ancestors are of a certain ethnic group doesn’t mean they will intergrate better in their ancestrial country. the fact that you fail to mention ethic koreans in China, the much more obvious choice for your idea, is a telling point and goes to show that you are not as accepting as you just claimed. not to mention the fact that most ethnic Koreans in China tend to be quite content staying there and identify much more closely with China than SK, much to the annoyance of ethno-nationalist koreans. Proof that just because you are ‘ethnically’ korea does not mean you will better intergrate or even like your ‘ethnic’ country

  • Xio Gen

    The fact that Koreans think their country isn’t first world is so quaint.

  • BillBo

    When your people live longer, have lower infant mortality rates and become richer it’s been shown time and time again in the past century that people will start having less kids

    This is a good thing IMO. The earth IS NOT big enough to accommodate a human population that never stops growing

    The most environmentally friendly thing you can ever do is to never have a child.

    • elizabeth

      Never have a child? Keep it that going and there will come a point in time when nobody will be there to enjoy that wonderfully preserved environment.

      • BillBo

        The larger point is that both extremes will spell doom. No, obviously I don’t advocate the human race dieing off in a century or so. I do think though that huge families are irresponsible from an environmental standpoint.Having huge amounts of kids is also not only environmentally unstable but also financially. The health care systems of the world can barely cope with the elderly it has now, let alone ever increasing sizes of them and also people who are living longer and longer. There’s not only limited money for them but also limited health care workers. Not to mention welfare benefits and living expenses for them. It also takes a toll on the younger generation by leaving less resources and raising retirement ages because the system cannot afford for you to be ‘elderly’ yet.

        Thankfully the ‘natural’ course of things seems to be for people having less children when they’re richer both individually and as nations.

  • Song

    Rising a child is a lifetime commitment. You’ll need to make sure they have enough to eat, grow up well mentally, be prepared enough to face life challenges, and take care of all their needs.

    Don’t forget that they’re human too and need to hangout with their friends, so spending money on clothing and appearance is important. Oh, did I forget about how shallow SK is? They’re too obsessed with plastic surgery… and academic performance…and money.

    This is reality.

  • Chucky3176

    Here’s an alternative. Instead of treating older workers like throw away’s, why not give them more working opportunities, and make the older workers stay longer in their jobs instead of forcing them to retire (and thus requiring tax funded social benefits, and requiring more immigration)? Read what Homedepot, an American chain store is doing to welcome and value older workers.


    Korean companies should look into doing the same thing, and stop the age discrimination.

  • fad

    No one really wants Koreans to procreate anyway…no worries.

  • Guy Forget

    “It’s difficult to raise children in this country.” haha, what a cop out answer. I see the migrant workers and foreigners in Korea having kids no problem and they supposedly only earn dirt pay. How can they afford to have 2 kids each? This is a BS answer. The real reason is because Kpop/Kdrama and the materialism and destruction of people’s minds into beauty and wholeness is destroying birthrates.

  • dark

    Korean never had a Korean race. The concept of “DanIlMinJok” was an ideological one. DNA analysis points to a race that points to an Altaic origin in the North. Korea is a concept.
    You are looking at a self-extermination of a society that is not sustainable. The old society of “SsangNom” propping up the lives of “YangBan” has not disappeared – it’s the same with the current elitist and control by the few.
    The only way out is education, self-empowerment, and self-actualization. Support small business, advocate consumer choice, embrace change, and re-group with a new identity.

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