South Korea Area and Population Density
The land area covers 99,392 square kilometers (or 38,375.46 square miles) and this small area (in combination with staggering population numbers) contributes to the fact that South Korea is known as for its population density, which is more than 10 times the global average. Due to rapid migration as a result of the quick economic expansion from the 1970s, South Korea is now Asia's fifth largest economy and one of the world’s 15 largest economies.
South Korea is one of the planet’s most densely populated countries with a density of 503 people per square kilometer, or 1,302 people per square mile. Nearly 70% of South Korea's land area is mostly uninhabitable due to it being mountainous and the population is established in lowland areas, contributing to a density that is higher than average. In 1975, an estimate was made that South Korea's population density in its cities, each containing at least 50,000 people, was nearly 4,000 on average. As a result of the continued following of the practice to migrate to urban areas, the figure was much higher in the 1980s.
Seoul's population density was estimated around 17,000 average persons in 1988, an increase of over 3000 when compared with 1980's population density of nearly 14,000 people every square kilometer. The current density of Seoul is almost twice that of New York City. The density of Busan, the second largest city in the country, was just over 8,500 persons for every square kilometer in 1988, while this figure stood at a little over 7,000 people back in 1980.
The government's Economic Planning Board believes the population density will be 530 people for every square kilometer. The population is expected to stabilize by 2023, according to the census. The largest cities, according to statistics taken in 1895, were Busan (3.5 million inhabitants), Seoul (9.6 million), Daegu (2.03 million), Gwangju (0.9 million), Incheon (1.4 million) and Daejeon (0.86 million). Statistics taken by the government show that Seoul’s population passed the 10 million mark near the end of 1988. Meanwhile, the average growth rate of its annual population in the 1980s was greater than 3%. Most of the growth was as a result of migration with natural increase playing a smaller role in this change. Surveys taken show that seeking a new job or a job transfer were the major reasons that new immigrants gave for moving. Many immigrants also cited education and convenience as factors in moving to the capital.
Largest Cities in South Korea
The population of Seoul made up 23.8% of South Korea’s population in 1985. However, there has been greater growth in the provincial cities as compared to the capital, especially in the southeastern coastal area, which includes Pohang, Pusan, Ulsan, Chinhae, Yeosu, and Masan. Figures from the census show that the population of Ulsan increased eighteen times, with an increase of 521,300 inhabitants from 1960 to 1985. In contrast, Kwangju’s population did not even increase three times from 1960 to 1985.
Rapid urban growth has resulted in various problems for South Korea. High-rise apartments were constructed in order to help alleviate housing shortages. But it also caused severe hardship on the thousands of people who were forced to relocate from their old neighborhoods since they were unable to afford the rents in the new buildings. In the late 1980s, squatter areas which contained one-story shacks still existed in different parts of Seoul. Housing for most of the population, bar the wealthiest, was generally cramped. The concentration of factories in urban areas and the use of coal for heating during the severe winter months resulted in dangerous levels of air and water pollution, issues that still remain today.