Koreans are primarily from one ethnic family and speak one
language. Sharing distinct physical characteristics, they are
believed to be descendants of several Mongol tribes that migrated
onto the Korean Peninsula from Central Asia.
In the seventh
century, the various states of the peninsula were unified for
the first time under the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935). The
resulting homogeneity has remained largely preserved to this
day, enabling Koreans to maintain a firm solidarity with one
As of the end of 2011, South Korea's total population
was estimated at 49,779,000. The population of North Korea is estimated
to be around 24,051,218 (2010).
Korea saw its population grow
by an annual rate of 3 percent during the 1960s, but growth
slowed to 2 percent over the next decade. In 2005, the rate
stood at 0.44 percent and is expected to further decline to
0.01 percent by 2020.
A notable trend in Korea's demographics
is that it is growing older with each passing year. Statistics
show that 7.2 percent of the total population of Korea was 65
years or older in 2009; by 2010, this same demographic group
made up 11.3% of the population.
In the 1960s, Korea's
population distribution formed a pyramid, with a high birth
rate and relatively short life expectancy. However, age-group
distribution is now shaped more like a bell because of the low
birth rate and extended life expectancy. It is projected that
by the year 2020 youths (15 and younger) will make up a decreasing
portion of the total population, while senior citizens (65 and
older) will account for some 15.7 percent of the total population.
The nation's rapid industrialization and urbanization in
the 1960s and 1970s was accompanied by continuing migration
of rural residents to the cities, particularly Seoul, resulting
in heavily populated metropolitan areas. However, in recent
years, an increasing number of Seoulites have begun moving to