SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, March 3, 2021 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government unveiled its 2020 citizen population statistics, tallying up both Korean and foreign nationals registered in Seoul.
With its population exceeding 10 million for the first time in 1988, Seoul became one of the world’s megacities. The capital’s population, however, started to decline after hitting its peak in 1992. And for the first time in 32 years, the number of registered residents in the capital stood below the 10 million mark at 9.91 million at the end of 2020.
Compared to 2019, the number of Koreans living in Seoul slid by 60,000, and that of foreigners decreased by 40,000. Among the 40,000 foreigners who left the city, Chinese and Korean-Chinese took up around 32,000. The number of Vietnamese and Mongolians, on the other hand, increased.
As of the end of 2020, Seoul’s total population, including Korean and foreign nationals, came to 9,911,088, below the 10 million mark for the first time since 1988. In fact, Seoul already saw its Korean population fall below 10 million in 2016.
The tally for Seoul’s registered residents declined by 1.00% on year, losing 60,642 Koreans and 39,253 foreigners.
Meanwhile, the number of households in the capital maintained its upward trend. It jumped by 90,349 (2.09%) on year to 4,417,954, but the number of persons per household dropped by 0.06 to 2.19 year-on-year.
The age group that made up the largest number of Seoulites was people aged 25-29 years with 858,648, followed by those aged 45-49 and 50-54 years. The age group that showed the largest decline was people aged 15-19 years, followed by 45-49, and 35-39 years. In particular, the number of children aged 0-4 years declined by 10.26%, while seniors aged 85-89 years increased by 11.42%, indicating an extremely low fertility rate and population aging of Seoul.
The proportion of people aged 65 and older to the total population was 15.8% in 2020, up from 14.1% in 2018 and 9.5% in 2010. By surpassing the 14% mark in 2018, Seoul became an aged society.
In 23 out of 25 districts of Seoul—except for Gangnam and Songpa—senior citizens accounted for more than 14% of the population, making the districts aged societies according to the UN standard.
While the number of Korean Seoulites under the age of 65 dropped by 1.2 million compared to a decade ago, the number of people aged 65 and above increased by 560,000. This trend clearly shows Seoul’s population is aging.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Seoul’s demographics. The population of registered foreigners shrank by 39,253 to 242,623, down by 13.93% compared to the previous year.
Comparing the foreign demographics by nationality, 32,070 Chinese and Korean-Chinese moved out of Seoul. Vietnamese and Mongolians, on the contrary, inched up by 133 and 270, respectively.
“It is critical to come up with proper measures to monitor and handle social challenges that demographic changes would bring about,” said Lee Won-mok, Director-General of Smart City Policy Bureau at the Seoul Metropolitan Government. “To detect demographic transitions such as declining fertility rate and rapid population aging and to prepare for the future, the city government will provide demographic statistics promptly.”