Kim Jong Un Would Like Women to Have More Babies, Please

North Korean leader wants women to step up to stop nation's declining birth rate
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 5, 2023 10:50 AM CST
Kim Jong Un Would Like Women to Have More Babies, Please
North Korean women attend the National Mothers Meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday. Independent journalists weren't given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said it's the duty of women to halt a fall in the country's births in order to strengthen national power, state media said Monday, as his government steps up the call for its people to have more children. While getting a detailed read on North Korea's population trends is extremely difficult because of the limited statistics it discloses, South Korea's government assesses that the North's fertility rate has declined steadily for the past 10 years. That's a concerning development for a country that depends on mobilized labor to help keep its broken, heavily sanctioned economy afloat, reports the AP. Kim's latest appeal for women to have more children was made Sunday during the country's National Mothers Meeting, the first of its kind in 11 years.

"Stopping the decline in birth rates and providing good child care and education are all our family affairs that we should solve together with our mothers," Kim said. According to South Korea's statistics agency, North Korea's total fertility rate, or the average number of babies expected to be born to a woman over her lifetime, was at 1.79 in 2022, down from 1.88 in 2014. The decline is still slower than its wealthier rival South Korea, whose fertility rate last year was 0.78, down from 1.20 in 2014.

While North Korea is one of the poorest nations in the world, the change in its demographic structure is similar to that of rich countries, some observers say. "Many families in North Korea also don't intend to have more than one child these days as they know they need lots of money to raise their kids, send them to school, and help them get jobs," said Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website focusing on health issues in North Korea. Ahn, who has interviewed many North Korean defectors, said the smuggling of a vast amount of South Korean TV dramas and movies over the past 20 years that showed an elevated social status for women has also likely influenced North Korean women not to have many children.

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North Korea implemented birth control programs in the 1970s and 1980s to slow postwar population growth. The country's fertility rate recorded a major decline following a famine in the mid-1990s that was estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people, the Seoul-based Hyundai Research Institute said in a report in August. "Given North Korea lacks resources and technological advancements, it could face difficulties to revive and develop its manufacturing industry if sufficient labor forces are not provided," the report said. According to North Korean state media reports, the country has introduced a set of benefits for families with three or more children, including preferential free housing arrangements, state subsidies, free food, medicine, household goods, and educational perks for children.

(More Kim Jong Un stories.)

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