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16 June, 2024
 
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Can high-speed trains boost birth rates in South Korea?

How South Korea plans to reverse declining birth rates

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In a bold move to combat its plummeting birth rates, South Korea has unveiled a groundbreaking initiative: the Great Train eXpress (GTX). With the nation's birth rate hitting a historic low of 0.72, officials are grappling with the stark reality of an aging population and dwindling workforce, as Sky News reports.

At the heart of the issue lies the capital, Seoul, where young people face a trifecta of challenges: cramped living conditions, soaring housing costs, and excruciatingly long commutes. These factors have become formidable barriers to starting families, as the prospect of parenthood becomes increasingly untenable.

Despite pouring a staggering 360 trillion won (£213bn) in subsidies since 2006, government efforts to reverse the decline have faltered. Now, the spotlight is on the GTX project, a mammoth undertaking aimed at revolutionizing transportation and revitalizing demographics.

President Yoon Suk Yeol kicked off the endeavor by inaugurating a section of the first line, heralding a new era of connectivity and efficiency. Commute times from Suseo to Dongtan, once a laborious 80-minute journey by bus, have been slashed to a mere 19 minutes thanks to the high-speed train.

With plans to establish six lines linking Seoul to various outlying areas by 2035, the government is sparing no expense, allocating a staggering 134 trillion won (£78.8bn) to the ambitious endeavor. The GTX, touted to be one of the fastest underground systems globally, promises speeds of up to 112 mph, setting a new standard in transportation.

Land Minister Park Sang-woo emphasized the broader implications of the GTX, highlighting its potential to reshape urban living and alleviate the strain on young couples. By enabling them to reside further from the bustling capital without sacrificing precious hours to commute, the project aims to afford them the leisure and flexibility needed to contemplate starting families.

South Korea's demographic dilemma mirrors similar trends across the region, with neighboring Japan and China also grappling with declining birth rates and the challenges of an aging population. As the world watches, the success of the GTX project could hold the key to unlocking a brighter future for generations to come.

[With information sourced from Sky News]

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