The demographic graph of a normal country has a pyramid or bell shape. But that of North Korea reportedly has an abnormal gourd-shaped curve. The narrow part in the middle of the curve accounts for the key age group between 20 and 34 of the economically active population in the North. It is believed that is because many of those born in the 1990s in the midst of economic difficulties and food shortages died of malnutrition or diseases when they grow up.
This was revealed on Monday by Hwang Na-mi, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, in the outcome of her analysis of a 2008 census report the North's Central Statistics Bureau submitted to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The North's demographic graph shows that the "population between 20 and 34 years of age remarkably dwindled compared to teens or those in their 40s," she said.
Lee Ae-ran, a professor of food, nutrition and cuisine at Kyungin Women's College, said, "As economic problems worsened in the 1990s, many young North Koreans avoided marriage and childbirth and illegal abortions were rampant. Especially in the late 90s, many children and youths starved to death in urban areas, as well as in rural regions." She is the first female North Korean defector to obtain a doctoral degree in the South.
The North's 2008 census was conducted according to international standards with the help of the UNFPA, and thus it is regarded as reliable statistics on the status of North Korean population.
The North conducted its first-ever census in December 1993. But the categories did not conform to international standards, nor were the results consistent.
The North's infant mortality rate, which is considered a yardstick for gauging a country's socio-economic level and health, was 19.3 per 1,000 infants younger than 1 year, up 5.2 from 14.1 in 1993. However, some experts speculate that such a rate in the North is not as serious as it has been known so far.
According to the "2010 World Population Report" published by the UNFPA last month, the North's infant mortality rate is 47 per 1,000, pushing the country to 51st place among 181 countries.
The North's maternal mortality rate, the rate of mothers who die during pregnancy or childbirth, was 77.2 per 100,000, far up from 54 in 1993. The Stalinist country's average life expectancy was 69.3 years in 2008, down from 72.7 years in 1993.