Current trends and issues in studies of rural depopulation areas of korea

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The main issue in the rural geography of Korea has been the regional impacts of rapid rural-urban migration. In the process of industrialization since the 1960s, rural areas lost more than half of their population during the period 1970-90. Depopulation rates were about 25% in the 1970s and 35% in the 1980s. As a result, almost all of rural Korea, excluding areas near metropolitan areas, have been undergoing depopulation at rates in excess of 3% per year. In this paper, the current research on rural depopulation of Korea has been reviewed with three sub-themes, that is, its cause, the pattern of rural-urban migration, and regional impacts. The rural areas in Korea were transformed to scarce population areas as a result of the rapid rural-urban migration since the 1960s. The main cause of rural-urban migration has been the urban-oriented national policy, the so-called growth centre strategy. The national planners selected a few metropolitan areas as growth centres and fostered a regional disparity. This led to the migration of, particularly, highly educated rural youths to urban areas seeking non-agricultural occupations and increased incomes. In addition, remote mountainous areas in which most of the underground resources are found, have been experiencing more severe depopulation since the 1970s, due to the new energy policy, namely, the transfer from a coal-oriented to a petroleum-oriented policy and the restrictions placed on utilization of forest areas. In this process, the most severe depopulated areas in Korea shifted from plain agricultural areas near metropolitan areas (1960s) to remote mountainous areas (1970s and the first half of the 1980s) and agriculture areas remote from metropolitan areas (after the latter half of the 1980s). With this background, the pattern of rural-urban migration in Korea can be characterized as follows from the current research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-45
Number of pages25
JournalJapanese Journal of Human Geography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • depopulation
  • growth centre strategy
  • regional transformation
  • rural Korea
  • rural-urban migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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