Official Data Shed New Light on Pyongyang Population

The Weekly Chosun has obtained detailed official records of some 2 million adult residents of the North Korean capital Pyongyang from a source in the North Korea-China border area. The data, which contains the names, date of birth and home addresses of 2,108,032 Pyongyang residents, was compiled by the North's State Security Department in 2005.

The data does not include children up to age of 17 or an estimated 10,000 members of the elite including relatives of leader Kim Jong-il, or of soldiers stationed in Pyongyang from provincial areas, according to the source.

But it does include people in four districts that were excluded from the Pyongyang administrative area last year. According to official data published by South Korea's Unification ministry based on the North's Central Yearbook in February, Pyongyang's population shrank by about 500,000 as a result of administrative restructuring. But the list shows only about 197,000 adults living in those four districts in 2005.

The difference of 300,000 is too big to make sense, even if the omitted child population is taken into consideration.

The most remarkable aspect of the data is the shortage of men. There are a mere 870,000 men on the list compared to 1.22 million women.

What caused the imbalance is not known but it is possible that many men are soldiers and therefore not counted. Another guess is that there are more women in the capital because they are shipped there for mass rallies.

A former senior North Korean official who defected to the South in 2007, said, "More than six out of every 10 Pyongyang residents are female. It's mostly the elite who are allowed to live in Pyongyang. A lot of men have been moved out to the suburbs, but the women are mobilized for mass events, which explains the gender imbalance."

Based on analysis of the records, the average marriage age is 27 years old. More than 80 percent of adults in Pyongyang were registered as married, compared to South Korea, where single households are on the rise. Some 410,000 or 20 percent of the total population in Pyongyang were unmarried and under 27 years old. Divorcees accounted for about 1 percent of the total population with 21,000, although North Korean defectors say divorce and remarriage rates there are gradually increasing.

About 830,000 or more than one-third are party members -- a very high ratio considering that the total number of party members across North Korea is about 2 million.

The remaining 1.28 million seem to be either prospective members or family of members. They are said to be working mainly in party-affiliated organizations.

A defector from Pyongyang told the Weekly Chosun, "It's hard for non-party members to live in Pyongyang. Many people are in the process of becoming party members, even if they haven't been admitted yet. They consider it an honor. So really most people in Pyongyang are in the party."

According to the data, there are 124 registered foreign nationals in Pyongyang from 15 countries including the U.S., Japan, China, the former Soviet Union or Russia, the Czech Republic, Canada, France, and Lebanon. Japanese citizens top the list with 86, but they are likely to be ethnic Koreans. About one person from every European country lives in Pyongyang.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 22, 2011 08:17 KST