Population Density is Key to Understanding South Korea

To appreciate different regions of South Korea, and to appreciate this blog most fully, I think it helps to understand a few things about population density in South Korea.

So, so far on this blog, I have covered three provinces – Chungcheongbuk, Gangwon, and Gyeongsangbuk.

Let’s look at these three provinces (including Daegu Metropolitan City) on the map.

The light pink area is Daegu Metropolitan City

The light pink area is Daegu Metropolitan City

These three provinces cover almost half of South Korea’s land area.

Now let’s look at total population in 2014:

Chungcheongbuk: 1,578,934 people
Gangwon: 1,542,147 people
Gyeongsangbuk (excluding Daegu): 2,700,328 people
Daegu: 2,492,994 people
South Korea: 51,302,044 people

So first of all, almost half of all of the residents of Gyeongsangbuk are in Daegu. And Daegu has more people than either Chungcheongbuk or Gangwon provinces.

DSCF7398

Let’s look as these places in terms of percentage of South Korea’s population:

Chungcheongbuk: 3% of South Korea’s population
Gangwon: 3% of South Korea’s population
Gyeongsangbuk (excluding Daegu): 5% of South Korea’s population
Daegu: 5% of South Korea’s population.

So these three provinces – which cover about half of South Korea’s land area – only have 16% of South Korea’s population, and that falls to 11% if you exclude Daegu.

DSCF6651

Gyeongsangbuk was one of the first regions I explored, and I was impressed by all of the open space – farms, forests, and mountains. I explored Chungcheongbuk and Gangwon midway through my travels in South Korea, and was likewise impressed by the sparseness of the human population. This is comparable to the San’in and Tohoku regions in Japan, and to eastern Taiwan.

Where are all of these South Koreans who aren’t in these three relatively large provinces (okay, Chungcheongbuk isn’t particularly large, but Gangwon and Gyeongsangbuk are South Korea’s two largest provinces by land area).

Let’s look at a particular city:

This map shows Seoul's position in the northwestern corner of South Korea

Population of Seoul (2014): 10,117,909
Percentage of South Korea’s population: 20%

Okay, so we see that Seoul all by itself has a larger population that all three of the provinces I’ve covered in this blog so far even if we include Daegu.

Now let’s take a look at the Seoul Metropolitan Area, which is Seoul City + Incheon City + Gyeoggi Province.

Seoul (red) + Incheon (purple) + Gyeoggi Province (green)

Seoul (red) + Incheon (purple) + Gyeoggi Province (green)

Population of Seoul Metropolitan Area (2014): 25,620,000
Percentage of South Korea’s population: 49%

Now we know where many of those South Koreans outside of Chungcheongbuk/Gangwon/Gyeongsangbuk Provinces are! They’re in Seoul or the surrounding metropolitan area.

That’s right, about half of South Korea’s population is practically in a single province, and about half are in the other eight provinces.

Since Seoul/Incheon/Gyeoggi is such an outlier, let’s exclude them as see what else we can learn about South Korea from these statistics.

Seoul/Incheon/Gyeoggi, your population is so disproportionately high that we are taking you out of South Korea.  Goodbye.

Seoul/Incheon/Gyeoggi, your population is so disproportionately high that we are taking you out of South Korea. Goodbye.

Population (excluding Seoul/Incheon/Gyeoggi) (2014): 25,682,044 people
Chungcheongbuk: 6%
Gangwon: 6%
Gyeongsangbuk (excluding Daegu): 11%
Daegu: 10%

Okay, so even though throwing out Seoul/Incheon/Gyeoggi evens things out a bit, we still see that Chungcheongbuk, Gangwon, and Gyeongsangbuk combined only have 23% of the population (33% if you include Daegu) of South Korea excluding the Seoul Metropolitan Area, even though these three provinces represent the largest chunk of land. That means 67% of the population of South Korea excluding Seoul Metropolitan Area is in the regions that I am going to cover next in this blog.

This satellite picture of South Korea at night also indicates where the population density is high.

This satellite picture of South Korea at night also indicates where the population density is high.

I started this blog with the least densely populated provinces of South Korea on purpose so that I could gradually move from rural to urban South Korea. That meant my blog posts so far have focused on remote temples, mountain hikes, villages, and so forth.

Now that I have covered those three provinces, I am going to go through the provinces which lie between these two extremes – they are not as hyper-dense as Seoul, but much denser than Gangwon.

DSCF6123

There will still be some remote temples, mountain hikes, and villages – after all, these middle provinces are still mostly rural land. In fact, these middle provinces have the highest mountains of all of South Korea, so there definitely is going to be more mountain blogging.

However, there’s also going to be more urban areas in the mix than there was before. And the next set of posts are going to be very urban, since my next topic is South Korea’s second largest city and one of the world’s busiest shipping ports, Busan.

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About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.
This entry was posted in Chungcheongbuk, City, Gangwon, Gyeoggi, Gyeongsangbuk, Overview, Seoul and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Population Density is Key to Understanding South Korea

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