|A screenshot from the YouTube channel of Choi Jae-chun, a professor of animal behavior and ecology in the College of Natural Sciences at Ewha Womans University, shows him talking about Korea's low birthrate.|
By Yoon Ja-young
A renowned evolutionary biologist in Korea has said that it is a "stupid" choice to have children here.
Choi Jae-chun, a professor in the College of Natural Sciences at Ewha Womans University specializing in the behavior and ecology of animals, said on his YouTube channel that it would not be wise to give birth and raise a child in Korea today.
He said that, from his viewpoint as an evolutionary biologist who studies animal behavior and ecology, the current low birthrate in Korea is a "natural" consequence, since it is the result of an evolutionary adaptation. The country's total birthrate, or the number of babies born per woman, was 0.84 last year, the world's lowest.
"Animals that can't control (their desire to breed) when there is no food or shelter are very unlikely to survive."
He cited studies by evolutionary biologists that have come to the conclusion that whether a herd will grow or shrink is determined by the choices made by each individual, not by the herd. He pointed out that young Koreans as individuals are seriously doubting whether they can have children and raise them properly.
"To me, those who end up having kids after such deliberation are not making the appropriate calculations," he said. But, he added that the country may be kept going thanks to these young people's "bold decisions" to have children in the face of such obvious difficulties.
Regarding the irony that the birthrate has been falling, while Korea has grown economically, he said that his generation did not calculate thoroughly before having children. Even if they did not have a house or a decent job, they just got married believing that they would somehow find a solution.
"Young people nowadays calculate too much and as a result, can't do anything. They say they will get married when they have enough money for all those plans, but that day never comes," he explained.
Choi said it can't be denied that young people in Korea now have different life standards from those of their parents or grandparents. "In the past, Korean people married without a plan and suffered together as a couple, but now the costs of marriage, as well as childbirth, childcare and children's education, are too high for the younger generation to calculate," he said.
"It is a fact that the standards young people want to have in order to raise their children in a good environment are too high. The young generation takes the perfect situation as the standard, and when that situation is not met, they are reluctant to get married and have kids," he elaborated.
Choi said that people will have children when their situations improve, urging the government to invest more into fundamentally changing the social system, so that more people can make the choice to have children and feel that joy.
"I will say it is the biggest joy one can have in the world," he said.
After receiving Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at Harvard University, professor Choi taught at Harvard, University of Michigan, and Seoul National University before moving to Ewha Womans University.