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(LEAD) Inflow of foreigners causes 'surprise' increase in S. Korean population

All Headlines 11:48 April 05, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, comments in paras 5, 7; ADDS with new information in para 16)

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's population growth topped last year's forecasts by more than a surprising 500,000 due to an unexpected inflow of foreigners into the country, a government report showed Monday.

According to data by Statistics Korea there was an estimated 49.30 million people in the country last year, up by around 1.17 million compared to 2005 when the population stood at 48.13 million.

In 2006, the statistical office estimated that the population will grow by 609,000 from 2005 to 2009, based on birth and death rates and movement of people across borders.

The single largest factor that contributed to the gains was the net inflow of foreign nationals, which rose by 400,000 from estimates four years ago.

"The rise in numbers is directly linked to more foreigners settling in the country than anticipated," an official at the statistics office said.

In 2005, there was an overall outflow of people from the country, with 81,000 more individuals leaving the country than coming in. The figures changed in 2006 when foreigner arrivals surpassed those leaving South Korea by 44,000. The net inflow reached 77,000 in 2007 and over 60,000 the following year.

"Such a trend was not reflected in the 2006 estimate, but shows that future government policies on foreigners could have an impact on the structure and growth of the population," he said.

The official pointed out that the rise in arrivals is due to a surge in international marriages, an influx of migrant workers and less people emigrating abroad as South Korea's living standards improve.

Other factors that caused population numbers to rise beyond original predictions are higher than expected birth rates and a decline in deaths caused by advances in medical science.

During the 2005-2009 period, there were 2.28 million newborns in the country, about 64,000 more than what Statistics Korea had said would be born in the time period.

The total fertility rate (TFR), which represents the average number of children born to a woman during her child-bearing years, was a little higher than expected, hitting 1.12 in 2006, 1.25 the following year and 1.15 in 2009.

The death rate also fell in the period, causing population numbers to rise by around 76,000.

Originally, about 1.30 million people were expected to die during the five year time frame but actual deaths have been tallied at 1.22 million.

The government statistical office said the latest trends could delay the date of South Korea's population reaching its peak by about a decade with the total likely to surpass the 50 million mark from the previous forecast high of 49.34 million in 2018.

South Korea's population was expected to peak in 2018 and start falling the following year, but the peak year may occur in the mid-2020s with changes in new arrivals from abroad.

Reflecting such developments, a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that South Korea's population may hover at 44.33 million in 2050. This is larger than the 42.34 million people that the statistical office under the finance ministry said would be in the country in the cited year.


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