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Palau, Population

Shinto shrines, Japanese occupation, Koror, story boards, wood carvings

The population of Palau (2002 estimate) is 19,409. About 70 percent of the people live on the island of Koror. With an area of 21 sq km (8 sq mi), Koror has a population density equal to that of many cities. The remaining population is scattered among the other eight inhabited islands, where people live in small rural villages. The majority of people speak Palauan, a Micronesian language. English is an official language and most Palauans speak it fluently. Housing and clothing are largely Western in style. Most food is imported, and canned beverages are popular. Automobiles, outboard motors, and a wide variety of consumer goods are also imported, mainly from Japan.

Most Palauans are Christian, with 40 percent of the population belonging to the Roman Catholic church and 25 percent belonging to various Protestant religions. Modekngei, an indigenous non-Christian faith, is also represented. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 14. Palau has one public high school and a number of church-affiliated private high schools. There are no colleges or universities; however, two-year training programs are available from the Micronesian Occupational College (1969) based in Palau.

Sports are popular, especially baseball, and churches sponsor many social events. Koror has restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Among the local arts and crafts, story boards (wood carvings that depict Palauan legends) are unique to Palau.

There are many historical sites dating from the Japanese occupation of the islands (1914-1944), including the remains of Shinto shrines. The Botanical Gardens and the Palau National Museum are located on Koror.

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