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North Korea - People

North Korea stresses collectivism, as individualism may cause the society to split. North Korea believes that even small division of opinion could be detrimental to communalism and that sameness is effective in bringing people together in groups systematically.

It would be a profound understatement to say that accurate, up-to-date information on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is limited. North Koreas population is slightly less than half that of South Korea. The country is highly urbanized. The population is almost completely ethnic Korean, with a few Chinese and Japanese.

Eberstadt and Banister, factoring in uncounted males in the military, estimated the 1996 midyear population of North Korea at 23,906,122 and the 1998 midyear population at 24,721,312. The total populaton was estimated in July 2007 to be 23,301,725, and in July 2015 it was estimated at 24,983,205. The Norths 2007 estimated birthrate was 15.0 births per 1,000 and the death rate 7.2 per 1,000. The drop in birth rates in 1998 would suggest that many families began to control their fertility in 1997, allowing a nine-month lag for gestation in the years 1996 and 1997, when most accounts suggest that the famine was at its peak.

A report by South Koreas Statistics Korea shows that North Koreas population was 25.13 million in 2018, about half of South Koreas. North Korea conducted a census in 1993 in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund, and most recently, in 2008. South Korea assisted the North in holding the 2008 census. Based on the data, the South Korean statistics agency, in 2010, made an estimate of North Koreas population from 1993 to 2055 to assess population growth in the northern neighbor. In 2008, North Koreas population was estimated at 23.93 million, about 49 percent of South Koreas. A decade later, in 2018, the proportion remained almost the same.

Part of Kims design in creating his dream city as he called Pyongyang. was obviously to limit the size of the population which stoods at about 1 million in the 1980s, and 2.5 million by 2015 by one estimate. Pyongyang had a population of 3.3 million according to the 2008 population census. More North Koreans want to live in Pyongyang and many people would migrate to the city were it not for the tight controls exercised by the government. North Koreans cannot move into or out of P'yongyang without official approval.

Given the country's hardships in recent years, the question of how many people are living or have died in North Korea is shrouded in greater mystery than ever. The deterioration of the North Korean economy since 1990, a disastrous combination of flooding in 1995 and 1996, and drought in 1997 brought on a severe food crisis in the reclusive, communist nation that placed millions of people at risk of starvation. Efforts to gauge the effects of this crisis, however, have been hampered by the North Korean government's reluctance to permit randomized surveys of morbidity and mortality.

The North Korean government seems to perceive its population as too small in relation to that of South Korea. There is no official birth-control policy, but falling growth rates are the result of late marriages (after a mans compulsory military service), an exhausted population as a result of long hours of work and political study, families limited resources and housing space, and, now more so than in earlier years, the deterioration in health conditions because of chronic food shortages.

Only about 40 percent of its citizens live in rural areas, a low percentage for a less-developed country and a reflection of the mountainous terrain and limited arable land. Population density is estimated at 188 persons per square kilometer. The inability of the rural population to produce enough food to feed the urban society would normally lead.

Since the 1990s, North Korea has suffered from chronic severe food shortages because of natural disasters and economic hardships. Many starving North Koreans have escaped from their homeland and roamed around in China and other neighboring countries for food before re-settlement in South Korea. As of January 2009, over 15,000 North Korean defectors including young adult defectors have settled in South Korea.

Food deprivation gave rise to prevalent malnutrition in North Korea. One study reported that North Korean defectors aged 4 to 19 in China were shorter in stature between 70-90% of the South Korean reference value, indicating serious malnutrition. Due to severe food shortages during periods of growth, North Korean young adults have experienced growth retardation and have become physically adapted to under-nutrition.

In a 2010 study, irrespective of age or sex, North Korean young adult defectors were shorter, lighter and thinner than South Korean young adults in both men and women. When stratified by age and sex, North Korean young adult defectors were 4.9 cm (men aged under 20) to 10.8 cm (men aged over 20) shorter and 6.0 kg (women aged under 20) to 12.4 kg (men aged over 20) lighter than South Koreans.

Since the famine, the population growth rate has slowed significantly. The estimated annual growth of 0.9 percent (20025) represents a dramatic decline from 2.7 percent in 1960, 3.6 percent in 1970, and even the 1.9 percent rate in 1975. Earlier estimates by demographic experts that North Koreas population would increase to 25.5 million by 2000 and to 28.5 million in 2010 have proved way off the mark because of the effects of the unexpected, devastating famine. In 1990 life expectancy at birth was approximately 66 years for males and almost 73 for females. Despite the effects of the famine, the 2007 estimate showed a slight increase in life expectancy (69.2 years for males and 74.8 for females). There also was a slight imbalance in the male:female sex ratio. According to 2007 estimates, there were 0.94 males for every female in the general population and 0.98 males for every female in the 15 to 64 age-group.

North Koreas population is expected to decrease down the road, as it suffers from a low birthrate, just like South Korea. North Koreas fertility rate hit the lowest level of 1.9 in 2018. Many women in South Korea avoid having children, and North Korea is following a similar trajectory. In the North, the trend became conspicuous in the mid-1990s, when the nation suffered from a severe economic contraction. During the time of economic hardship, women felt increasingly burdened by childbirth and childcare. It is little wonder many women were reluctant to have children. The falling birthrate will be a serious problem, as it means a decline in the economically-active population.

As the low birthrate became a problem, North Korea stopped providing birth control devices to people. In November of 1993, it even imposed a ban on abortion. As part of birth promotion policies, the government has promised women to provide them with maternity leave, additional rations and the title of heroine, if they have more children.

Until the 1980s, it was a common belief that a love marriage would end up in divorce because it was considered abnormal. Love and dating was controlled in North Korea during the years of former leader Kim Jong-il, as dating was regarded as a product of capitalism and an indecent element that damages socialism.

Unlike in the past, however, North Koreans perception about dating has changed a lot in recent years. With citizens going on dates more freely than before, it is common to see couples walking arm in arm on the streets and showing public displays of affection. Dating and the display of physical affection have been considered pretty natural since leader Kim Jong-un appeared in public places arm in arm with his wife Ri Sol-ju. Moreover, the South Korean pop culture boom known as hallyu that has been sweeping the reclusive North Korean society has contributed to the change of perception about dating.

When women linked their arms with men in the past, men in most cases were so embarrassed that they would loosen their arms quickly. But after the scene of the leader and his wife arm in arm was made public, a new culture of displaying love spread fast in the North. It is said that people did not hesitate to show wild displays of romance such as kissing on the streets and on the subways in Pyongyang. Many young people including college students who are curious about foreign culture as well as those living in border areas have accessed various TV soaps and programs from South Korea and China. Partly for that reason, it is easy to find men and women holding each others hands on the streets at night these days. Photos of Pyongyang show that even middle-aged men and women walk on the streets, putting their arms around each others shoulders, in broad daylight. This is a significant change, indeed.

In patriarchal North Korea, on the other hand, men mostly paid for dates in the past. But this tradition has also changed lately. For about 30 years from the 1990s to the 2010s, many North Korean women became financially independent. As a result, women have become more active when spending money on various occasions, probably including dating.

In the past, most North Korean men were attracted by women with an elegant image, while women put top priority on mens family background and political ideology. These days, it is said that economic capability is considered important. Previously, it was important whether a person is a party member, what occupation he or she has and what family he or she came from. But qualities for a preferred partner have changed as well. With capitalistic elements permeating into North Korean society, ones wealth has become a top priority since the mid- to late 2000s. People have become keenly interested in the financial stability of their potential partner, rather than something the state or the party wants.

During the era of former leader Kim Jong-il in the 1990s, North Korea held the mothers convention and gave the title of maternal heroine to mothers of seven or more children. The purpose, of course, was to encourage childbirth. At the third such convention in 2016, leader Kim Jong-un highlighted the maternal heroine title once again. In another effort to promote childbirth, North Korea extends state rationing by another six months for women who have a third child. Women with many children are exempt from labor mobilization and as well as fees, so they can ease the difficulty of both childcare and financial burden.

Another demographic trend in North Korea is an aging population. In the North, a long life is regarded as something to be celebrated. An old man who turns 100 is given a birthday feast in the name of leader Kim Jong-un and the event is reported on the local media. While the North Korean population is aging, their average life expectancy is rather short, compared to their South Korean counterparts.

If many North Koreans live long, leader Kim Jong-un can demonstrate a positive image of his country as a civilized socialist state. According to the 2019 worldwide population estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy of North Koreans is 71, 12 years shorter than that of South Koreans. The life expectancy of North Korean men and women on average is 66.5 and 73.3, respectively, while that of South Korean men and women, 79.7 and 85.7, respectively. There seems to be a gap between the life expectancy pursued by North Korean authorities and the actual figures.

Tuberculosis is one of the most serious healthcare problems in North Korea. It is a common belief that patients can be cured of tuberculosis if they eat well. This disease has much to do with living standards. North Koreas high mortality rates from infectious diseases mean that many local residents suffer from chronic malnutrition and have a weak immune system. North Koreas hygiene conditions are not very good, so any infectious disease may spread very fast.

Sexually transmitted diseases STDs reportedly rose to almost epidemic levels during the 1990s, when a calamitous famine sparked the growth of a sex industry desperate to make money. The trend has reportedly continued within wealthier circles around Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. There are continued claims from South Korean news agencies that young girls are forced into prostitution to service high-ranking North Korean officials, making sex diseases all the more rampant among the military elite.

There are many kinds of alcoholic beverages native to particular regions. Pyongyang, Gaeseong and the Rason Special Economic Zone have their own version of soju, the traditional Korean distilled spirit. Many regions use their local fruit to make liquor. Deuljjuk liquor from Ryanggang Province is a very famous local specialty. It was served for the toast of the 2000 inter-Korean Summit. Pine mushrooms from Mt. Chilbo, Siberian ginseng from Mt. Baekdu, rowanberry and sea cucumbers are used to make alcoholic drinks. Snake wine, with a high alcohol content of 40 percent, is produced by infusing an entire snake in alcohol. Other ingredients to brew liquor include tiger bones, which are believed to help improve arthritis, fire ants, black glutinous rice, you name it. Among North Korean alcohols, Taedonggang beer, named after the river that flows through the capital of Pyongyang, is by far the most familiar to South Koreans.

While North Korea boasts its Taedonggang beer, the nations signature liquor is Pyongyang soju. On October 7, 2018, the Norths official Rodong Sinmun newspaper introduced Pyongyang soju as the national liquor of North Korea, saying that leader Kim Jong-un is deeply attached to the spirit and has highly appreciated it several times. Pyongyang soju is made with corn and white rice and has the strong smell of alcohol. It is produced in two different bottle sizes, 500 milliliters and 750 milliliters, at a factory in Pyongyang and has alcohol content of either 25 percent or 30 percent, which is much higher than that of South Korean soju.

North Koreans like to drink to relieve stress or socialize with other people. The government still controls drinking in order to prevent accidents, regulate illicit brews, and build social order. Especially during traditional holidays, the government exercises strict control over drinking to prevent any accidents or casualties from drunk driving.

North Koreans enjoy drinking with their neighbors or coworkers quite often to have a pleasant time together and promote friendship. When drinking, they like to use their own expression that is equivalent to bottoms up in English. It is said that North Korean people have held drinking parties more often since the 2010s, when liquor production increased and relevant regulations were eased.

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Page last modified: 20-09-2021 15:49:01 ZULU