Famine in North Korea, 1995-1998: A Retrospective Study of North Korean Migrants in China

Courtland Robinson, Johns Hopkins University
Myung-Ken Lee, Johns Hopkins University
Gilbert Burnham, Johns Hopkins University

A severe food crisis in North Korea in 1995 led the government to seek large-scale food aid though it prohibited outside assessments of mortality. Lacking direct means of measuring recent mortality, alternatives were sought. It was estimated that, since 1995, between 50,000 and 150,000 North Koreans had moved temporarily into China. In 1999-2000, interviews were conducted with a total of 2,692 North Korean migrants. Respondents provided information on births, deaths, and migration patterns in their household in North Korea from 1995-1998. The study found, using a framework of 19 "generalizations" about the demography of famine (Dyson and O Grada,2002) that a famine had occurred in North Korea during the period 1995-1998. Evidence supported three key "generalizations": crude mortality had increased significantly, this increase was due principally to increased malnutrition and infectious disease and that male mortality rates increased more than for females at most age groups.

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Presented in Session 26: Measurement of Health and Mortality in Developing Countries