By Lee Hyo-sik
Population mobility fell last year to the lowest level in 33 years as people refrained from moving houses due to the property market slump.
Mobility tends to be higher when the market is booming as homeowners sell to realize capital gains and those who do not own houses buy on expectations of further rises in real estate values, increasing population movement.
According to Statistics Korea Monday, the number of people who moved to a new administrative district totaled 7.51 million in 2012, down 7.6 percent from the previous year. This marks the lowest amount since 1979 when 7.32 million people changed their legal residence. The number has been on a decline since 2006.
The population mobility rate per 100 people also dropped to 14.9 percent last year from 16.2 percent, the lowest since 1973 when the rate was 14.3 percent.
The statistical office attributed the slowing population movement to the prolonged sluggishness of the housing market.
''The number of people moving to new areas reached its peak in the 1990s. Since then, the figure has been on a downward curve,'' said an official at Statistics Korea. ''Stagnant property prices and decreasing housing transactions have cut population movement in recent years. The overall economic slowdown has also played a role in causing the mobility slump.''
According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, the number of housing transactions plunged 25.1 percent to 735,414 in 2012, the lowest since 2006.
The official projected the population mobility will continue to decline in the future due to a drop in the number of Koreans in their 20s and 30s as a result of low birthrates.
''A great deal of population movement is caused by young people moving to other areas for jobs and marriage. Given the country's declining youth population, mobility will likely head downward,'' he said.
Mobility rates among those in their 20s and 30s dropped 1.5 percentage points and 1.2 percentage points, respectively. The mobility rates for men stood at 15 percent, slightly higher than 14.8 percent for women, the statistical office said.
Among 17 municipal districts, Seoul, Busan and six others had more people move out than in. Seoul saw a population outflow of 104,000 last year, followed by Busan with 21,000 and Daegu with 11,000.
Gyeonggi Province and eight other districts recorded a net inflow in population. Gyeonggi had 83,000 more people move in than out, followed by Incheon with 28,000 and Sejong with 17,000.
The net influx of people into Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province reached 7,000 last year. A total of 475,000 people moved into the metropolitan region, while 468,000 left the area.