Kim Jong-Un cries as he desperately calls on women to have more children
North Korea’s leader burst into tears as he urged women to have more children.
Kim Jong-Un said it was their duty to halt the country’s declining birth rate in order to strengthen national power, according to the country’s state-run media.
In what appeared to be a stage show of emotion, the North Korean dictator wiped his eyes with a white handkerchief as he delivered a speech at a National Mothers Meeting in the capital Pyongyang on Sunday (December 3).
Women in the audience were seemingly moved to tears by their leader’s weeping over his isolated country’s falling number of births.
While getting a detailed reading of North Korea’s population trends is extremely difficult due to the limited statistics it releases, South Korea assesses that the North’s fertility rate has declined steadily for the past 10 years.
That is a concerning development for a country which depends on mobilising labour to help keep its broken, heavily sanctioned economy from crashing.
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Kim said in his speech: “Stopping the decline in birthrates and providing good childcare and education are all our family affairs that we should solve together with our mothers.”
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, according to South Korea’s government statistics agency.
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.
South Korea’s fertility rate, which is the lowest in the developed world, is believed to be due to a number of reasons discouraging people from having babies, including a flagging jobs market, a brutally competitive school environment for children, traditionally weak childcare support and a male-dominated corporate culture where many women find it impossible to combine careers and family.
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.
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Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website focusing on health issues in North Korea, said: “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.”
Ahn, who has interviewed North Korean defectors, said the smuggling of a vast amount of South Korean TV dramas and movies in the past 20 years that showed an elevated social status for women has also likely influenced women in North Korea not to have many children.
Pyongyang brought in birth control schemes in the 1970-80s to slow its postwar population growth.
The country’s fertility rate recorded a major decline after famine ravaged the country in the mid-1990s. It was estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people, the Seoul-based Hyundai Research Institute said in a report in August.
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The report said: “Given North Korea lacks resources and technological advancements, it could face difficulties to revive and develop its manufacturing industry if sufficient labour forces are not provided.”
North Korea has introduced a set of benefits for families with three or more children, including preferential free housing arrangements, state subsidies, free food, medicine as well as household goods and educational perks for children, according to state media reports.
South Korea’s statistics agency estimates the North’s population is 25.7 million. The Hyundai institute report said that North Korea was expected to experience its population shrink from 2034 and forecast its population would decrease to 23.7 million by 2070.
Ahn said Kim Jong Un’s repeated public appearances with his young daughter, Ju Ae, are also likely be efforts to encourage families. Other experts said the daughter’s appearances were more likely an attempt to show she’s her father’s heir.
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