Urban vs. rural population
South Korea was predominantly an agricultural country after it gained independence from Japanese rule in 1945. In the decades that followed, the dictatorships and democratic governments that governed Korea strove to industrialize and modernize the country. One of the results of such policies was an increasing urbanization in combination with a depopulation of the rural areas. The urban population increased by approximately seven million in the last twenty years, as the rural population dropped by approximately 1.6 million. In addition, the degree of urbanization has been between 81 and 82 percent over the past decade. This means around 81 percent of the total population was living in an urban area.
The most populous city Seoul
Seoul’s particularly high population density is not surprising. The capital city is usually grouped together with the province of Gyeonggi, which is shaped like a donut with Seoul at its center, and the metropolitan port city of Incheon as the Seoul Capital Area. This is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas and is the political, economic, and cultural center of South Korea. One half of Korea’s population of over 51 million people live in this area. The city is home to around 9.4 million people. The concentration of power, wealth, and jobs attract more and more people from all over the country. The large number of apartment complexes in Korea further intensify the population density. High-rise apartments, ranging from ten to twenty stories or even higher, are the most common form of housing and are especially widespread in Seoul.