December 05, 2023

North Korea wants women to bear children for the motherland. They aren’t.

The DPRK’s fertility rate is sliding down and its population aging despite the state’s pro-natalist policies

South Korea is experiencing a demographic disaster these days: Its total fertility rate (TFR), the average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime, has dropped below the psychologically important 1.0 mark, and the COVID-19 pandemic is driving it even lower. The TFR should be 2.1-2.2 to maintain a stable population, but costly government efforts to keep the country’s TFR above the 1.2-1.3 level have ended in spectacular failure.

But what about North Korea? Much like in the South, the North has both encouraged and discouraged childbearing over the years, with its population policy going through three distinct phases of pro-fertility from 1945-1970, family planning from the early 1970s to early 1990s and now back to the pro-natalist approach since around 1993.