Population As of 2006,
the population of the Republic of Korea stood at 49,024,737.
In terms of density, there are roughly 480 people per
square kilometer. Conversely, the population of North
Korea was 24,000,000 in 2005. Once considered to be
a serious social problem, historically, the threat of
rapid population growth posed serious social repercussions
on developing countries.
Yet such fears of swelling growth hardly raise much
cause for alarm on the peninsula. With the advent of
campaigns and changing attitudes, there are signs that
the population growth has curbed remarkably in recent
years. The number of people aged 65 and older was up
0.5 percent from 2005, numbering 4.56 million, roughly
9.3 percent of the entire population.
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
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). Such homogeneity has enabled Koreans
to be relatively free from ethnic problems and to maintain
a firm solidarity with one another.
As of the end of 2005, Korea's total population was
estimated at 48,294,000 with a density of 474 people
per square kilometer. The population of North Korea
is estimated to be 22,928,040.
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
A notable trend in Korea's demographics is that it is
growing older with each passing year. Statistics show
that 6.9 percent of the total population of Korea was
65 years or older in 1999, and 9.1 percent was in 2005.
In the 1960s, Korea's population distribution formed
a pyramid shape, 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. Youths (15 and younger)
will make up a decreasing portion of the total, while
senior citizens (65 and older) will account for some
15.7 percent of the total by the year 2020.
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 suburban areas.
Buddhism first arrived in Korea in the 2nd year (A.D.
372) of the reign of King Sosurim of the Goguryeo Kingdom.
After its introduction, Buddhism exerted a powerful
influence in the Baekje Kingdom and Silla Kingdom. Bulguksa
Temple and Seokguram Grotto, which are designated as
World Cultural Heritage sites by UNESCO, are Buddhist
creations from the Silla Kingdom.
Buddhism has exercised a far-reaching influence on Korean
culture throughout its long history. The nation's invaluable
Buddhist heritage abides in buildings, sculptures, paintings
and handicraft. Protestantism & Catholicism
Protestantism came to Korea after the signing of the
Korean-American Treaty in 1882. Because Christianity
challenged the basic values of Joseon society, its believers
were subject to persecution in the early years, but
as Christians took an increasingly active role in the
anti-colonial struggle against the Japanese and churches
promoted more educational opportunities, Christianity
gained acceptance. Today Korean churches evangelize
abroad, and approximately twenty five percent of the
Korean population is Christian.
Catholicism first came to Korea as a western scholarly
pursuit. Korean tributary missions to the imperial court
of China took an interest in Jesuit missionary books
and brought them back to Korea. In 1784 the first Korean
was baptized in Beijing and returned to Korea to set
up a house of worship. Despite considerable persecution
by the government, numerous people joined the Catholic
Church. Presently, over two million people belong to
the church. Confucianism
Confucianism became a common philosophy in ancient Korea.
When it came into contact with fundamental Korean sentiments,
Confucianism brought about profound changes and exerted
considerable influence on the Korean people. It has
been an indispensable component of the Korean moral
system, way of life and national laws.
Confucianism, which was the major philosophy of the
Joseon Dynasty, eventually gave rise to Silhak, or practical
learning. Confucianism has deeply permeated the consciousness
of Korean people and can be seen today in many forms,
including two ceremonies that continue today: Jongmyo
Jerye, the royal ancestral service at Jongmyo Shrine
and Seokjeon Daeje, the worship rites at the Seonggyungwan
in honor of Confucius, his disciples, and other celebrated
Chinese and Korean Confucian scholars. Shamanism
Various shamanistic practices are deeply ensconced in
Korean life. Shamanism was similar with folk beliefs
from ancient times. It is closely related to the primitive
cults which practiced communal rites for the gods of
heaven, and which were uninfluenced by Buddhist tradition.
One distinguishing characteristic of Korean shamanism
is that it seeks to solve human problems through a meeting
between humans and the spirits. This can be seen in
the various types of shamanistic rites which are still
widely practiced even today.