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South Korea greeted the new year by recording its first annual population decline. Unfortunately, the go-to solutions are meeting some practical challenges in the COVID-19 era.

Headcount dwindled slightly to 51.8 million last year, the Ministry of Interior and Safety said Sunday. The retreat was the product of a 10.6% slide in births, coupled with a 3.1% increase in deaths. South Korea now joins neighboring Japan in suffering an actual fall in population, as opposed to the diminishing rates of growth that characterized past years. The ministry called for “fundamental changes,” national news agency Yonhap reported, without offering details.

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