North Koreans live an estimated 11 years fewer than South Koreans due mainly to malnutrition that adversely affects births and causes more people to die earlier, a Seoul government report said Monday.
Life expectancy in the communist state is 69, lower than in the early 1990s before famine struck, according to Statistics Korea.
AdvertisementThe report, citing data from the United Nations and Pyongyang, estimated life expectancy for men at 64.9 years and 71.7 years for women -- 11.3 years and 11.2 years fewer than this year's figure in the South.
The state statistical body also estimated a population loss of about 610,000 in the decade after the famine began in the mid-1990s, with 482,000 more deaths than usual and 128,000 fewer births.
The agency said it based its figures on censuses held in the North in 1993 and 2008, whose results were reported to the UN, data from experts and information from refugees.
"The North's food crisis is a 'slow-motion famine' whose impacts persist for such a long period of time... it looks like the famine has taken a toll on the overall life cycle of the North's whole population," Statistics Korea said in a statement.
The agency said the food shortage caused severe malnutrition among women, infants and the elderly in particular, sharply raising mortality rates among women of child-bearing age and young children.
It said conditions had improved in the past few years due to increased international food aid and improved food production.
A UN report last month warned the North is heading for a new food crisis, with drought and floods in various parts of the country exacerbated by cuts in international aid.
International donations have dwindled, in part due to irritation over the regime's missile and nuclear programmes.
The World Food Organisation has warned more than a third of children in some parts of North Korea suffer from malnutrition.