South Korea launches high-speed train – to help improve country’s birth rate by cutting commuting times | World News

South Korea has come up with a novel idea to get one of its biggest problems back on track – by launching a high speed train service.

The country has the world’s lowest birth rate as the average number of expected babies for a South Korean woman during her child-bearing life fell to a record low of 0.72 from 0.78 in 2022, according to data from Statistics Korea.

Young people have complained about the cramped living conditions and expensive housing in greater Seoul, plus long commutes, as motives for not getting married and starting a family.

Seoul’s birth rate is even lower than the national average and government efforts have failed to reverse the decline with subsidies – 360 trillion won (£213bn) since 2006.

Officials are relying on the Great Train eXpress (GTX) to spur the rates expected to provide six lines linking Seoul to several outlying areas by 2035.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol gets on the train after inauguration. Pic: Reuters

The government is spending 134 trillion won (£78.8bn) on the project.

On Friday, President Yoon Suk Yeol inaugurated a section of the first line, which will cut the commute time from Suseo in the capital to the township of Dongtan, south of Seoul, to 19 minutes instead of 80 minutes by bus.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol gets on a train after an opening ceremony of GTX-A in Seoul, South Korea, March 29, 2024. Yonhap via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
Officials are hoping the the project will increase fertility rates. Pic: Reuters

The branch is to open from Saturday and when the GTX is fully operational is will be one of the fastest underground systems in the world, with trains travelling at speeds of up to 112 mph, officials said.

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‘How can anyone make time for babies?’

Land Minister Park Sang-woo said the GTX would allow young people to consider homes far away from the capital without having to spend hours commuting.

“With a two-hour commute on the way home, for example, how can anyone make time for babies? The idea is to give people more leisure time after work,” he said.

South Korea is not alone in the region struggling with a rapidly ageing population. The number of babies born in 2023 fell for an eighth straight year to a record low in neighbouring Japan, as China also faces a population stagnation.


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