South Korea is suffering from a shortage of pediatricians, partly a result of the world's lowest birth rate and increasingly a factor behind it, leaving hospitals unable to fill posts and raising risks for children's health, doctors say.

The number of pediatric clinics and hospitals in the capital has fallen by 12.5% over the five years to 2022, to just 456. Over the same period, the number of psychiatry clinics increased by 76.8%, while anesthesiology centers saw a 41.2% rise, according to the Seoul Institute, a public administration think tank.

At the root of the problem is a birth rate that fell to 0.78 in 2022 — that's the average number of babies expected per woman — combined with the failure of the insurance system to adapt to it, leaving pediatrics starved of resources and doctors shunning a field they think has no future, seven pediatricians said.