By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
Statistically, our Republic has passed the population mark of 50 million as of last June 23, 2012. Our per capital income of $20,000.00 with that population made us the seventh member of the world's '20-50 Club.' There has been quite a festive mood in the press and beyond for our new status. Usually, the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italia, and Canada are called a G7, but our Republic became the seventh member instead of Canada, whose population is less than 50 million. Canada has a population of 34 million only.
In 1960, our population was 25 million with a per capita income of $80 and the national gross income of $2 billion. And in 50 years, the population doubled, with the per capita income increasing 250 times and the national gross income 500 times. This is really a miracle. This is the first among all the nations which gained independence sine the Second World War, as well as the first among the developing countries in the world. In consideration of the fact that the gross nation income of all the member countries of the 20-50 Club previously increased and passed the $30,000 mark, we could possible hope that ours will follow suit.
However, the concept of the 20-50 Club is neither recognized in the international society nor an official organization. And the achievement of the $20,000 per capital income milestone came five years ago in 2007, thus making the goal of the $30,000 gross income per capita overdue, and when we take a look into the reality of our 5 million population era, we cannot help but feel bitter, because of our lowest birthrate and highest suicide rate among the OECD nations. In addition, the productive age population keeps going down due to the trend toward a fast speeding aging society.
With the current birthrate there is absolutely no hope for us to expect an era to come of 60 million population, and even the era of the 50 million population would not last long. According to an expert estimation, the current 50 million population level would last for approximately 30 years, and with the expectation of 52.16 million population in 2030 at the highest, the population will come down for the period of 23 years from 2045 until 2068 to the level of 40 million, and then it will fall further down to some 30 million by the year 2091.
A bigger problem is the expected decrease of the productive population caused by the trend of aging accompanied by a low birth rate. In 2010, the productive population was 35.98 million, or approximately 72.8 percent of the total population, but in 2040 it is expected to be reduced to 28.87 million, followed by a reaction of 7 million for the next 30-year period.
The decrease of the productive population would cause the shortage of our labor force and the reduction of our production, de-energizing the power of the national economy. After all, the milestone of our population surpassing 50 million is not just a time for us to celebrate but it is a time when we need to collect our ideas from now one and make a fresh resolution to overcome the obstacles of those problems we have to face with regard to the low economic growth as well as the era of aging and the low production.