I've written before on South Korea but it's endlessly fascinating to watch a society that's in a death spiral get worse each year. South Korea had 6% fewer births in Q1 2023 than in Q1 2022...which itself was a record low year of births. In fact, every year since 2016 has had record low births after decades of steady decline. Their estimated Total Fertility Rate for the year is 0.74.
As a result, their population pyramid looked like this in 2021 and it's only gotten worse. Note how there are over 4x as many people in their 50s, who will be leaving the workforce in the next few decades, than there are infants to replace them. 0.74 is unfathomably bad. If that didn't change, the population structure would look like this:
Generation 1: 100
Generation 2: 37
Generation 3: 14
I just don't know what's going to happen to the young people who remain. Many are assuming they'll just be tax cows/slaves to the elderly majority, but I'm not so sure. Like all government, at the end of the day the mandates of a democratic government come at the point of a sword. If you try to make serfs out of the only people in your society who are still capable of violence I don't think it'll work out too well for you.
It's very sad to see this happen to a people as accomplished and capable as South Koreans, but hopefully what happens to them serves as a lesson to other peoples. I've read interviews with young South Koreans and it seems like they almost universally think of their childhood as something they don't want repeated, and I can't say I blame them. Going to a hypercompetitive school all day, then going to some cram school afterwards for five hours every day, never seeing your dad who work in his office helljob until 11 PM every night...I wouldn't want to live that way either, or bring another soul into this world for that sort of life. On top of this all of the prestigious jobs are in a single metro area which I've been led to understand is almost as expensive as southern California when compared to incomes.
But at the end of the day it's an entire country and the survivors will inherit it. What will be left I have no idea. What I do know is that if you're fortunate enough to live in the US or Western Europe there's basically infinite upside to having kids as the world is about to get way more weird and open. Your countries getting flooded with immigrants isn't ideal, but I would take being born in the USA or even somewhere like the UK in 2023 100 times out of 100 over South Korea. If you dislike the system it will be increasingly easy to just opt out. Perhaps our children 25 years from now can make a living doing odd jobs a few months a year for the masses of aging and college educated South Korean cog people living in high rises and spend the rest of their time four wheeling in the abandoned countryside exploring ruins and chilling with their personalized AI assistant.