Seoul-searching: Irish missionary laments South Korea’s vanishing children

Seoul-searching: Irish missionary laments South Korea’s vanishing children

Fewer children, shuttered schools and universities and the promotion of pet ownership over and above the formation of families are but a few effects of South Korea’s plunging childbirth rate, according to Seoul-based Irish Columban, Fr Donal O’Keeffe.

This comes even as Irish birthrates continue to fall, well below the replacement level 2.1 children per woman, which is required in order for a population to replenish itself.

The number of babies expected per woman in South Korea dropped this year to 0.72 and will continue to fall through 2025, when it’s expected to reach 0.65, according to the country’s latest statistics.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic newspaper, Fr O’Keeffe said that the lack of children is a “huge concern” in South Korea.

“I remember when I came here initially, 48 years ago, outside our door there were kids everywhere, running around and playing. Now, you don’t see any kids,” he said.

The government is proving powerless to halt or reverse the trend, with Fr O’Keeffe explaining that “money is being poured into it” to little effect.

“Schools are closing right, left and centre. Universities are being forced now to close because there’s no students coming through. There are couples – first of all, marriage rates are plummeting too – but couples then are choosing not to have children.”

Subscribe to read the full analysis here.