This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Will South Korea be the Next Melting Pot Nation?

A rapid decline in fertility was the trigger for economic growth in East Asia--including Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. But the demographic dividend that came with the age structure effects of rapid fertility decline does not arrive without a cost. All four of these countries are facing depopulation because of birth rates that are well below replacement level. There are two reasons for this, as I have detailed before (most recently for Japan): (1) male chauvinism that forces women to choose between a career and a family because men are unwilling to take on domestic responsibilities; and (2) the fear of strangers that keeps these countries from allowing immigrants to fill in the blank spots in the economy. This week's Economist highlights an interesting story in South Korea, where the migration of women to cities to work (and often not to marry) has left farmers without a pool of prospective mates--so they have sought foreign brides. This hasn't always gone well, but things seem to be improving.
Last year over a fifth of South Korean farmers and fishermen who tied the knot did so with a foreigner...Not long ago placards in the provinces sang the praises of Vietnamese wives “who never run away”. Now, on the Seoul subway, banners encourage acceptance of multicultural families.
They are expected to exceed 1.5m by 2020, in a population of 50m. That is remarkable for a country that has long prided itself on its ethnic uniformity. But a preference for sons has led to a serious imbalance of the sexes. In 2010 half of all middle-aged men in South Korea were single, a fivefold increase since 1995. The birth rate has fallen to 1.3 children per woman of childbearing age, down from six in 1960. It is one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Without immigration, the country’s labour force will shrink drastically.
The government likes the idea of foreign brides as a substitute for no brides at all, although there is also a concern that the brides need to acculturate:
The government is now tightening up the marriage rules. Last month two new requirements came into force: a foreign bride must speak Korean, and a Korean groom must support her financially. Koreans are now limited to a single marriage-visa request every five years.
The main concern, of course, is that the children of these unions will be discriminated against as they grow older. Still, the article seems to suggest that there is growing acceptance of multicultural families in Korea, and that has to be a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Dr Weeks,

    I thought you wold find this article of interest. It's about world politics, demographics, migration, religious observance, and demography. Sorry this link is so long.