North Korea Facts
Last Census - 2010
Trustworthy data about North Korean demographics is hard to come by. The most recent data comes from a census conducted by the North Korean Government in 2008. The results, released in 2011, claimed that the population of North Korea stood at exactly 25 million.
Although the number is clearly rounded, it is roughly borne out by other estimates – for example the United Nations Department of Education and Social Affairs estimate from 2010 of 24,346,229 and the CIA Factbook’s estimate that the population of North Korea in 2012 was 24,589,122. Today, we estimate the population to be approximately 25,028,853.
Depending on the figure chosen, North Korea is either the 48th, 49th, or 50th largest country in the world.
Estimates vary wildly as to how many citizens were lost as a result of the North Korean famine of the 1990’s. It is claimed that up to 3.5 million people may have died while others suggest that the final death toll may have been nearer 800,000.
The famine itself arose out of the collapse of the Soviet Union when North Korea’s economy started to suffer severe problems. Widespread storms and flooding across the country also provided a strong catalyst but whatever the final death toll may have been, it is clear that the famine had a marked effect on the population of North Korea.
What is the largest city in North Korea?
The largest city in North Korea is Pyongyang, the country’s capital city. At the time of the 2008 census it had 3,255,288 residents, making it the only city in North Korea with a population of more than one million people.
Pyongyang is the third largest city in North and South Korea combined, far below the population of Seoul (over 9 million) and slightly smaller than Busan (3.6 million). It is the 61st largest city in the world and the 34th largest city in Asia.
North Korea’s second city is Hamhung (768,551 people) and its third city is Chongjin (627,000 people).
North Korea Population Density
North Korea has a surface area of 120,540 square kilometres. This equates to 46,258 square miles and makes it the 98th largest country on earth in terms of land mass alone. For every square kilometre of land, there is an average of 208 people – that figure converts to 541 people per square mile. In total, North Korea is the 63rd most densely populated country in the world.
Most North Koreans live in in the south and west of the country, which is largely made up of lowlands. The north of the country, near the border with China, is more mountainous and far less densely populated.
North Korean Demographics
There is very little ethnic diversity within North Korea and this is arguably the most homogenous country on earth. There are a few small clusters of Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, Vietnamese and European communities here but the political atmosphere in the country isn’t one that lends itself to mass immigration.
The famine of the 1990’s is likely to have had a severe bearing on life expectancy in the country – not so much because of deaths at the time but because of the effect of malnutrition that follows people through the rest of their lives. In 2009, the CIA World Factbook claimed that the national average stood at 63.8 years which, in global terms is pretty poor – roughly comparable to former Soviet countries in Central Asia such as Turkmenistan (also fabled for its repressive government) and Kazakhstan.
Add in an infant mortality rate that is 12.5 times higher than that of its neighbour South Korea and the overall picture is actually pretty grim. The Government is certainly conscious that North Korea is outmatched by the population of South Korea, its southern neighbour and great rival, and has launched a number of drives to boost the total population. So far those drives have had limited effect – the current growth rate according to US estimates is around 0.5% per annum, which makes North Korea one of the slowest growing countries in the world.