for Children

Population and Lifestyle Changes


  Korea’ population has grown rapidly over the last century as shown in the numerous graphs on these pages. Population almost doubled from 1960 to 2010. Beginning in the 1960s many people migrated from rural to urban areas, resulting in massive population growth in the cities until the early 1990s. Seoul, for example, had a peak population in 1992. While the total number of people increased, there was also a big shift in the size of different age groups, or the population age distribution, as visualized using the population pyramids shown below. These are called population pyramids because the shape of many age distribution graphs resembles that of a pyramid. In 1960 young people outnumbered older people. The largest age group was that of the 5-9 year-olds. By 2010, the largest group was middle-aged, 40-44 year-olds. In 1960 fewer people reached old ages. The average life span was shorter and few lived beyond 70. In 2010 many more lived beyond 70 years, especially women. There were few children however. The shift in age distributions is a pattern typical for many countries during the 20th century. Korea’ population is now aging at the fastest pace in the world due to a plummeting birth rate and extended life expectancy.


 The social life of Koreans has rapidly shifted from the family and village-oriented community of the past to an urban way of life. These changes were accompanied by changes in other ways of life. In the past, the most common household was composed of five or more people sharing a home. There were very few single-person households. Now the situation has reversed and almost half of homes have only one or two people. And while in the past, several generations—randparents, parents, and children—hared a home, today it is much less common for a household to have more than two generations living together.

  Korean religion has also undergone significant changes. Confucianism and Buddhism influenced values and attitudes toward life in the past, and traditional religions were widely practiced in the daily life of Korean people. Christianity was introduced by missionaries during the late Joseon Dynasty, particularly in the 18th
and 19th centuries, and expanded with the modernization of Korea. Christian congregations grew rapidly until about 1995. The religious population varies by region. The proportion of Christians is higher in the capital region and southwest area, while the proportion of Buddhists is higher in the southeast.

  The Korean people have developed a diverse and unique food culture dating back to ancient times. Kimchi is a typical example of Korean fermented food. With four distinct climate seasons, fermenting allowed people to store vegetables to eat during winter. The most important grain in the Korean diet is rice. Korea has worked on land reclamation and securing a water supply to cultivate rice. Today, the consumption of rice is gradually declining, and Koreans are consuming more bread and noodles as wheat import has increased. Also, the modern Korean diet has an increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products.