Life Expectancy in North Korea Falls

By Bae Keun-min, Staff Reporter, The Korea Tmes, 1 May 2005

North Korea's life expectancy dropped by 5.5 years to 67.2 years in 2002 from 1993.

A total of 23.31 million people were residing in the North as of 2002.

According to a report on reproduction and health by the North's population research institute, sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the life expectancy for males in the North fell from 68.5 years to 63.1 years during the 10-year period, while that for females declined from 76.1 years to 71 years.

It is the first time that a report by the North has been released in South Korea although there have been many reports on the health and medical condition of the Stalinist country by international organizations.

The study comprises of data related to population, health and childbirth, including marriage, family planning, pregnancy and venereal diseases.

``The decreases in the average life span seem to result from deaths by famine occurred in between 1995 and 1998,'' the South's National Intelligence Service (NIS) said. ``As of 2003, the North's life expectancy was estimated at 64.9 years for males and 69.3 years for females, some 11-12 years shorter than that of the South.''

The report said a total of 23.31 million people were living in the nation as of 2002, which increased from 23.15 million people that the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea's state-run news outlet, said as the 2001 population.

As of 2002, South Korea's population totaled 47.62 million and its average life expectancy amounted to 77 years. The average lifespan was 73.38 years for males and 80.44 years for females, according to the National Statistical Office of the South.

The population growth rate declined in both the South and the North from 1993 to 2002. The South's population growth decreased 1.02 percent to 0.55 percent, while the North's shrank from 1.5 percent to 0.7 percent.

The NIS estimated the North's population growth rate as 0.83 percent in 2004.

The average age for the first-time marriage was 27.3 years for males and 24.8 years for females in the North in 2002, when the South correspondingly marked 29.8 years and 27 years.

The North's total fertility ratio stood at 2.03 in 2001, some two times larger than the South's 1.3. The South's figure decreased to 1.17 in 2002 and 1.19 in 2003.

The North's the maternal death ratio was 87 per 100,000 live births during the 1993-2002. Some 13.9 per 1,000 newborn babies died, the study said.

The mortality ratio for children less than five years old, equivalent to the number of deaths per every 1,000 population of the group, stood at 32.2 persons.

``The North's maternal death ratio and the child mortality ratio are relatively higher. The maternal death ratio was some three to four times higher than the South,'' said an official at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affaires in the South.

Natural delivery accounted for 96.4 percent of the total births in the North. In contrast, cesarean sections made up 40.5 percent in the South in 2001.

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