Figure 4. Civilian Population Distribution by Age and
Source: Based on information from Nicholas Eberstadt and
Judith Banister, "Military Buildup in the DPRK: Some New
Indications from North Korean Data," Asian Survey, 31, No.
11, November 1991, 1101.
Estimating the size, growth rate, sex ratio, and age
structure of North Korea's population has been extremely
difficult. Until release of official data in 1989, the 1963
edition of the North Korea Central Yearbook was the last
official publication to disclose population figures until 1989.
After 1963 demographers used varying methods to estimate the
population. They either totaled the number of delegates elected
to the Supreme People's Assembly (each delegate representing
50,000 people before 1962 and 30,000 people afterward) or relied
on official statements that a certain number of persons, or
percentage of the population, was engaged in a particular
activity. Thus, on the basis of remarks made by President Kim Il
Sung in 1977 concerning school attendance, the population that
year was calculated at 17.2 million persons. During the 1980s,
health statistics, including life expectancy and causes of
mortality, were gradually made available to the outside world.
In 1989 the Central Statistics Bureau released demographic
data to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)
in order to secure the UNFPA's assistance in holding North
Korea's first nationwide census since the establishment of the
DPRK in 1948. Although the figures given to the United Nations
(UN) might have been purposely distorted, it appears that in line
with other attempts to open itself to the outside world, the
North Korean regime has also opened somewhat in the demographic
realm. Although the country lacks trained demographers, accurate
data on household registration, migration, and births and deaths
are available to North Korean authorities. According to the
United States scholar Nicholas Eberstadt and demographer Judith
Banister, vital statistics and personal information on residents
are kept by agencies on the ri, or ni (village, the
local administrative unit) level in rural areas and the
dong (district or block) level in urban areas.
Data as of June 1993