South Korea was one of the world's most densely populated countries, with an estimated 425 people per square kilometer in 1989--over sixteen times the average population density of the United States in the late 1980s. By comparison, China had an estimated 114 people, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) 246 people, and Japan 323 people per square kilometer in the late 1980s. Because about 70 percent of South Korea's land area is mountainous and the population is concentrated in the lowland areas, actual population densities were in general greater than the average. As early as 1975, it was estimated that the density of South Korea's thirty-five cities, each of which had a population of 50,000 or more inhabitants, was 3,700 people per square kilometer. Because of continued migration to urban areas, the figure was doubtless higher in the late 1980s.
In 1988 Seoul had a population density of 17,030 people per square kilometer as compared with 13,816 people per square kilometer in 1980. The second largest city, Pusan, had a density of 8,504 people per square kilometer in 1988 as compared with 7,272 people in 1980. Kyonggi Province, which surrounds the capital and contains Inch'on, the country's fourth largest city, was the most densely populated province; Kangwon Province in the northeast was the least densely populated province.
The extreme crowding in South Korea in 1990 was a major factor not only in economic development and in the standard of living but also in the development of social attitudes and human relationships. More than most other peoples, South Koreans have had to learn to live peacefully with each other in small, crowded spaces, in which the competition for limited resources, including space itself, is intense. Continued population growth means that the shortage of space for living and working will grow more severe. According to the government's Economic Planning Board, the population density will be 530 people per square kilometer by 2023, the year the population is expected to stabilize.
Data as of June 1990
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