South Korea on Tuesday announced a set of measures to boost Busan’s economic growth, bolster job creation and improve access to key urban infrastructure, about three months after the city lost its bid to host the 2030 World Expo. Along with the announcement, President Yoon Suk Yeol held a public debate the same day at Busan City Hall, where he said the concentration of the population, companies and talent in the Greater Seoul area has triggered excessive competition in society and stymied the recovery of the fertility rate across the country. It was the 11th public debate presided over by Yoon, which has taken place instead of his New Year policy briefing since January. The debate was the first to be held outside of the Greater Seoul region. Yoon emphasized that increasing the fertility rate to at least 1 or above can be solved by rebalancing national growth. South Korea recorded a fertility rate of 0.78 per woman in 2022, far below the replacement rate of 2.1 births needed to maintain a stable population. The fertility rate is projected to decline further to 0.65 in 2025. The annual gross domestic product in the Seoul Metropolitan area has accounted for over half of the nationwide figure from 2014 to 2022, while the rest of the regions accounted for less than half of total economic output over the same period, according to the committee citing government data. Moreover, from 2016 to 2023, the southeastern region — encompassing Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang Province — experienced a population drain of 317,000 people, while the Greater Seoul area saw an influx of 385,000 people over the cited period. Busan has a population of 3.29 million as of January.
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