North Korea’s Kim Jong Un calls for action on falling birthrates

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for efforts to tackle the isolated country’s falling birthrates, describing the challenge as “everyone’s housekeeping,” state media KCNA reported on Monday.

Kim made the comments during an event for mothers in Pyongyang on Sunday.

“Preventing a decline in birthrates and good child care are all of our housekeeping duties we need to handle while working with mothers,” Kim said at the event.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that as of 2023 the fertility rate, or the average number of children being born to a woman in North Korea, stood at 1.8, amid an extended fall in the rate during recent decades.

The fertility rate remains higher than in some of North Korea’s neighbors, which have been grappling with a similar downward trend.

South Korea saw its fertility rate drop to a record low of 0.78 last year, while Japan saw its figure drop to 1.26.

The dwindling birthrates in South Korea have caused a shortage of pediatricians, while one city is hosting matchmaking events to boost birthrates.

North Korea, which has a population of about 25 million people, has in recent decades also had to contend with serious food shortages, including deadly famine in the 1990s, often a result of natural disasters such as floods damaging harvests.

The North Korean leader thanked mothers for their role in strengthening national power.

“I too always think about mothers when I have a hard time dealing with the party and the state’s work,” Kim said.