North Korean dictator Kim Jong cried in parliament as he begged for women to have more children as the country’s birth rate has plummeted.
The despot was pictured wiping tears with a white handkerchief while addressing thousands of women at a national mothers’ meeting in the capital Pyongyang. He said women must halt a fall in the country’s births to strengthen national power, according to state media.
As it is a highly secretive state, the country discloses very few details about its population trends. However, South Korea’s government estimates its fertility rate has declined steadily for the past decade. According to North Korean state media reports this year, 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.
Kim told mothers their “primary revolutionary task” was to drill “socialist virtues” into their offspring and instill loyalty to the ruling party during his address. He continued: “Stopping the decline in birth rates and providing good child care and education are all the family affairs that we should solve together with our mothers.”
The North Korean leader also reportedly warned parents to eliminate foreign influence on young minds, instructing them to send their children to perform hard labour for the state to correct bad behaviour that is not “our style.” North Korea implemented birth control programs in the 1970s-80s 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.
According to South Korea’s government 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. Ahn Kyung-Su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website focusing on health issues in North Korea told the Associated Press: “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 many 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.