Why Is There a Shortage of Men in N.Korea?

Data show that South Korea has about the same number of men and women in the population, but there is a noticeable shortage of men in North Korea. Why?

According to the latest demographic data on North Korea released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday, the gender ratio in the South stood at 100.3 males for 100 females as of last year but 95.2 to 100 in the North.

That means there were 75,000 more males than females in South Korea's 50 million people, but 604,000 more females than males in North Korea's 24 million.

Experts blame the high mortality rate among men in North Korea. Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said, "Many North Korean men die working in tough conditions as loggers or construction workers abroad to earn foreign currency."

And Kim Byung-yeon at Seoul National University said, "It appears that quite a lot of men die in military service" in North Korea.

Last year the average life expectancy of North Korean men was 65.6, considerably lower than South Korea's 77.8. For women it was 72.4 in the North and 84.7 in the South.

Another reason is the lack of medical technology that allows expecting couples to find out the gender of their child. Kim Young-hee, a North Korean defector now working for Korea Finance Corp. said North Korean hospitals lack ultrasound equipment, so couples do not have the option of selective abortion to ensure a male heir.

As of last year, the combined gender ratio of North and South Korea stood at 98.6 males to 100 females. Experts say that reunification of the two Koreas would bolster the young female workforce and ease the aging population trend.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 28, 2013 08:14 KST