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Why is Korea Not Breeding? Part II

Why is Korea Not Breeding? Part II
Photo by Daniel Bernard / Unsplash
Analysis, Solutions, and Lessons

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Find part I of this article here.

In the last article, we examined the Korean national character. In this article, we will show why that character has been crushed by liberalism. We will then examine what Korea has done to fix the problem, and what it must do to actually fix the problem. Lastly, we will make predictions for the future and draw out the lessons to be learned for Europeans.

We finished our characterization of traditional Korean society by comparing it to Northwest Europe, particularly German society, and we now return to this comparison.

It is often repeated that Germanic peoples are prone to liberalism,1 as though there is some magical formula that makes it so. But the Koreans are just as prone and perhaps more, because of a basket of traits they share with Northwest Europeans. They are high in conscientiousness, they are puritanical, melancholy, polite, deferent, and above all, in their very bones they are overachievers. Protestantism has had 500 years to breed the “spirit of capitalism” into Germanics; Confucianism has bred it into Koreans for twice as long.

But Confucianism did something else too. While it made Koreans into priestly workaholics, it counterbalanced this by a rigorous ideology of familial piety. The family was the basic unit of society. Unquestioning obedience was owed to the father. Marriage and work were ultimately means toward the continuation of the paternal line. And ultimately, the ancestor cult ensured that the highest metaphysical good was located in the family. Confucianism made Koreans careerists, but it posited family formation as the ultimate point of work.

Liberalism displaced all this, while leaving intact Koreans’ instinctive “Protestantism” (for lack of a better term). Overachievement and puritanism are fine when joined to something healthy. But when joined to individualism, liberality, and feminism, we have a recipe for societal death.

This of course happened to Germanic peoples too. But the situation is different for the South Koreans. Germanic peoples did not get full blown liberalism overnight—liberalism developed piecemeal over half a millennium in Europe. In all that time, Europeans have learned to live with liberalism as it grew in strength. South Koreans must contend with it in its developed form, having no evolved defenses.

Koreans are at far more of a disadvantage even than that. Whereas Germanics confronted this ideological menace in a much earlier age, South Korea must do so in the age of globalization. We live in an age of massive demographic change; millions of “migrants” can pour over your borders annually if the international community sees fit. And unlike early modern Europe, South Koreans have a large and hostile competitor on their doorstep who supports their ethnic counterparts in the North. They are totally dependent on the support of America, an alien power and the source of the ideology that is sterilizing them. And even so, that alien power is now declining, and will eventually be unable to maintain the frontiers of its empire. South Korea will then be on its own. Germanic people never had anything like this.


Before we say what South Korea can do to arrest their own extinction, we will examine what they are doing. In sum, they are throwing money at the problem. They have bought modernization dearly, and are squandering their gains reversing its effects.

South Korean TFR dropped precipitously from the end of the Korean war, and crossed below replacement (2.1) in 1983, thanks to the government’s strong fertility regulation policy, widespread use of contraception, and normalization of smaller family sizes. This was worsened by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, and the growth of capitalist culture in the 21st century.

Since 2008, South Korea has spent $215 billion on fertility initiatives,2 and that has bought a 40% drop in TFR. Mothers receive $1,510 upon the birth of a child, $755 per month for infants up to age one, $377 per month up to age two, a further $155 per month up to elementary school age, and more for low-income households.3 Some cities offer bonuses beyond that, and some cities now fund matchmaking services.4

In the 2022 election, South Koreans elected the unapologetically conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who promised to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. In 2023 he presided over a meeting of the Presidential Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy to figure out why its fertility initiatives achieved nothing over 15 years. The resulting plan of action was pointless, focusing on secondary issues such as support for childcare, education, flexible work hours, parental leave, and housing stability.

All the chatter about work-life balance is nibbling around the edges. The fundamental reason Koreans aren’t breeding is because women are more interested in careers than children. In a 2019 survey by the Korean Women’s Development Institute, young Korean women prioritized work and personal life over partnership and children.

A high percentage of young women also agreed that their partners’ participation in childcare, equal distribution of household chores, and partner’s maternity/paternity leave are prerequisites for them to consider having children. This is sharply distinct from the responses of their male counterparts, who pointed to their own financial situation and stable job as the biggest factors. This means that today’s young women will not tolerate traditional gender roles or unequal treatment, and would only choose to have children if their partners actively share the burden, allowing them to keep their careers without facing an existential crisis.5

There is a lot of talk among Korean pundits about work-life balance, but the essential fact is that no such balance can be achieved while prioritizing female labour force participation. Korean women did not wake up one day and decide they wanted to be executives and law firm partners. They were not given a neutral choice. Rather, they have been molded for generations by relentless, top-down social engineering, whose ultimate source is not Korean culture and values, but alien cultures and values.

In the mid-90s, the focus of international development shifted from population control to “human rights”. At the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, the plan of action called for governments to stop trying to maintain population size, and instead called for them to ensure access to women’s education and contraception.6 The 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women doubled down on this shift.7 Over the next 30 years, these policy initiatives were rolled into the governmental regulatory framework we now know as ESG, which systemically punishes corporations that do not promote these goals, creating a trickle-down effect of enforced gender equality.

Solutions to the fertility crisis offered thus far do not address the core problem which is the legal enforcement of gender equality. And the philosophical basis of gender equality is rooted in the ideology of individualism and personal freedom, which is to say, liberalism. There can be no liberal solution to this crisis. It’s time for South Korea, and the governments of the world, to put their big boy pants on and start thinking like grown ups. That is, they need to start thinking illiberally. Only then will serious policies become thinkable.

The first serious policy would be the elimination of gender equality initiatives, informal and legal, all the way up to the constitutional level. The only reason women as a cohort are competitive in the workforce is because legislation makes it so, otherwise the gender pay gap would naturally widen as a consequence of meritocracy. This is especially the case at very high levels of achievement. Female labour force participation causes low fertility,8 and the main tool propping up that participation is ESG initiatives. Those initiatives must be eliminated at the legislative level and penalties imposed on companies who adhere to them.

The next serious policy would be to ban or severely restrict birth control access. Contraception is not a human right, because human rights are not a thing. Eliminating birth control does not mean forcing women to have babies, because it does not mean forcing women to have sex. It simply means bringing sex and the consequences of sex back to a natural and healthy alignment that supports the continued existence of society. No serious person doubts that we should restrict access to methamphetamines or crack, because the abstract right to freedom must yield to the practical effect such access would have on society. The effect of birth control on South Korea is incomparably worse—extinction. A fortiori, its restriction is justified.

The third serious policy would be the mandating of traditional Confucian norms. As described earlier, Confucianism enshrines traditional gender roles, which are associated with high fertility.9 It also locates the highest good in the perpetuation and worship of the family, making fertility a duty rather than a luxury, and making low fertility a source of shame and low status. This is hard for Westerners to accept since the advent of Christianity, but its effect on fertility is crystal clear. Thus far Korea has been totally unserious about fixing the problem (and to be fair, so has the West). Serious solutions are not a mystery; they have been available since the beginning of time. All that is lacking is firmness and resolve.

These solutions would of course mean decoupling from American influence, at a bare minimum. Practically, it would mean realignment with China and becoming a hermit state, perhaps even reunification with North Korea. In the current international global order no such policies would be tolerated. However that order is breaking down as the default state of multipolarity returns, and America’s influence wanes. South Korea may find itself disowned by America anyway as America focuses on her own problems.

Severely curtailing female labour force participation would also come at an economic cost, though less of a cost than is commonly supposed. As women approach middle age, they naturally place less emphasis on their career. The vast majority of childless women reach a crisis point around age 30, when the sheer salience of the number itself tells them that time is running out to have children. Most women reach a point of maturity where they prefer a 9–5 job and time with family, leading them to give up serious career ambitions after 30. This is so even for high-achieving women.

The natural female psychological profile is not suited to a competitive environment because it was never evolved for it. Given the high resource demands of rearing human children (who have a long period of dependence), women have evolved a psychological profile that promotes extensive cooperation and a series of close, one-on-one relationships with other women, an evolutionary strategy known as “alloparenting”.10 Women tend to be psychologically disturbed by the hypercompetitive work environments required to make their firm competitive with other firms. This leads them to work fewer hours, to drop out of career paths earlier, and most consequentially, to change their work environment in such a way as to make their employer less competitive than other employers. Investment in female employees simply generates a lower average return. What’s more, males are much more phenotypically variable than females.11 This results in male exceptionality at the high (and low) end of achievement, so men will always tend to dominate at the top levels.

At the aggregate societal level, the imposition of female preferences on work culture leads to substantially lower efficiency. One might object here that studies show that gender-diverse workplaces are more profitable,12 but this is essentially junk science. The whole incentive structure of modern international capitalism is contaminated with gender ideology; ESG, gender quotas, and other legally mandated initiatives make diversity artificially profitable, so it is impossible to tell whether the profitability of gender-diverse workplaces is caused by their actual performance or by legislative fiat. While it has been found that diverse workplaces are more innovative,13 innovation does not matter if implementation is impossible, and it has been found that diverse workplaces make consensus-building much more difficult.14 The inclusion of women in the workplace creates an environment of sexual tension, disagreement, and distraction that is simply not present in male-only spaces.

When scaled up to a whole society, the negative effects of female labour participation are compounded to where the economic benefits of a larger workforce become marginal,15 especially when we consider the opportunity costs of their lost domestic labour. South Korea would, in isolation, not have to give up much in order to transition to a one-working-parent lifestyle.16 But South Korea does not exist in isolation—it exists within the context of a global ideology of progressive secular humanism, which would impose a cost on traditionalism.

But it is more than just a question of efficiency, it is also a question of quality of life. Women are not evolved to be breadwinners, and are not happy with it. Male attractiveness is based substantially on status, and women are not happy with a mate of lower socioeconomic status than themselves.17 The higher-achieving the woman, the smaller her pool of acceptable mates. This fact by itself goes some way in explaining why Korean women, among the most career-driven in the world, just do not find men attractive enough to marry or have children with—there are simply too few men of sufficiently high status. Gender equality is not the solution to, but the cause of, the problem.


Predictions are notoriously hazardous in population dynamics, hence the weasel word “if current trends continue” so beloved by demographers. But let us hazard a few anyway.

Much depends on the fate of China, which faces the same problem as South Korea, and is worried that it will not be able to solve it. The Chinese have largely the same psychological profile as the Koreans, having had Confucianism for much longer, though China is less ethnically homogenous, which will complicate the effect of social liberalization. South Korea is essentially a test case for the adoption of liberalism by Northeast Asians, and the results speak for themselves.

Multi-generational families will disappear in South Korea. This is not so much a result of birth rates specifically, but of the broader culture of self-absorption. While child care is a major issue, and thus having the grandparents cohabit and help with child-rearing would be a natural solution, the individualist culture of liberalism ensures that future grandparents will see their retirement as well-earned “me time” for a lifetime of hard work. This is already the case in the West with the Baby Boomer generation. What’s more, the dissolution of traditional Confucian norms is replacing the extended family with the nuclear family, and that trend does not show any sign of slowing.

Over a long enough time scale, the problem Korea is facing will solve itself. The psychological profile that promotes low fertility will simply die out because it is maladaptive. Over several generations, South Koreans who are high in individualism, trait openness, and conscientiousness will simply be bred out of the gene pool and more eugenic Koreans will replace them naturally. Not that there is no chance of extinction. South Koreans can always be replaced by migration at the will of the international community. South Korea’s challenge will be weathering this demographic storm in the age of globalization. No people ever bred themselves out of existence, but many have weakened themselves to where they were conquered.

It is possible that we will see Korean reunification in our lifetimes, although a number of dominos would have to fall in just the right way. America would have to retreat from its status of world hegemon and focus on domestic issues. The reunification process could be expedited by the rise of China, which rise seems less likely by the year because of its own fertility crisis and others. Finally, North Korea would have to weather the demographic crisis too. While North Korea’s TFR (1.8) is well over double that of South Korea, it is still below replacement. Still, apart from Mongolia (TFR 2.7), North Korea boasts the highest fertility in Northeast Asia.


The comparative fertility of North Korea, Japan, and Mongolia vs. South Korea and China confirms our thesis. Liberalism, and more broadly, modernity, pushes fertility down especially in “priestly” or ancestrally urban and bureaucratic peoples bred to live under central government, such as China and Korea. The priestly North Korea is suffering less than the priestly China because it is less modern; South Korea is suffering worse than both because it is the most modern.

More “knightly” or ancestrally rural, warlike, and tribal peoples are much less affected by liberalism and modernity. Knightly Japan has been modernized for longer than priestly South Korea, but is less affected. Knightly Mongolia has only just started down this road, and is least affected of all. Europe has weathered liberalism for longer, but it shows the same trend between its own peoples as Northeast Asia.18

Contact with liberalism is affecting Asians in the same way that it has historically affected Europeans, especially Northwestern Europeans. However because Asia is suffering “compressed modernity”—liberalism in its mature and concentrated form—and because it is suffering liberalism with no natural evolved defenses, what happened to Northwestern Europeans is happening to Asians with an order of magnitude more severity. Who will gain strategic advantage depends on the mechanisms we have laid out.

That is the primary lesson, but there are others. The radical right is host to a large contingent of people who think that the primary battle is over ethnic homogeneity. The main problem, as they see it, is that we no longer live in white countries. The fertility crisis is for them a symptom of the loss of ethnic sovereignty. This is certainly a compounding factor, but it is not the primary factor. South Korea is one of the few countries in which ethnicity and nationality coincide:

The phrase han p’it-chul (“one bloodline”) often is used by Koreans at home and abroad to symbolize their shared identity as the members of a homogeneous nation. Blood and territory thus are the most frequently invoked metaphors associated with the nation.19

Ethnic homogeneity is important to the prosperity, peace, and fertility of a nation, but other factors can overpower it. Homogeneity is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of health, which is why South Korea is suffering a fertility crisis despite being homogeneous. Europe and Northeast Asia are suffering different demographic crises—one a crisis of heterogeneity, and the other a crisis of sterility. But both crises share a common cause: liberalism.

Northwestern Europeans are in a unique position in world history. An ideological plague grew out of our native soil in the Enlightenment. We caught it first, when it was still in its fledgling stage. It was a curse on us, but we grew along with it. We learned to live with it. It changed us, hardened us, made us tougher and less reliant on cultural adaptation. We passed through a biological crucible, and now our fertility does not depend on our religion or folkways. Meanwhile, liberalism itself has gotten hardier and more virulent.

And now we have exported it to the rest of the world. Whereas we are coming out the other side of the historical process of modernization, whereas we are now developing folkishness and restoring our ancestral religions, Africans, Asians, Indians, Muslims, and others are only now entering into the crucible of modernity. It is crushing them. You could not design a more diabolical geostrategy if you tried. That is because it is not a human work, but the work of the old gods, who have returned and are thirsty for blood.

Folkishness is needed now more than ever, not only for ethnic preservation, but as a bulwark against liberalism itself. The end of the 21st century will be almost unrecognizable to us, but one thing about it is certain: those left standing will be folkish.

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Germanics are the ultimate WEIRD people, see Joseph Heinrich’s The WEIRDest People in the World for the canonical statement.2

In a 2023 study, it was found that “an increase in female unemployment by one percentage point led to a EUR 9.54 decrease of GDP per capita.” Considering that women have a 7% unemployment rate in the EU, if women were 100% unemployed it would lower the GDP per capita of the EU from 45978 to 45052 EUR.

Nor would the West for that matter, which is why two generations on from second-wave feminism, two-working parent households are not much better off than one-working parent households were before.17

For reference, consider the Germanics, Norse, Balts, and Celts as more “knightly”, and the Mediterranean peoples as more “priestly”. One look at a TFR map shows the same trend.

Melvin Ember and Carol R. Ember, ed., Countries and Their Cultures vol II., p. 1216.

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