Journal List > Korean J Community Nutr > v.21(3) > 1038544

Korean J Community Nutr. 2016 Jun;21(3):265-273. Korean.
Published online June 30, 2016.
Copyright © 2016 The Korean Society of Community Nutrition
Status of Maternal Nutrition in South and North Korea
Soh-Yoon Yun,1,2 Young Hye Kwon,1 and Jihyun Yoon1,2
1Department of Food and Nutrition, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
2Office of Nutrition Policy and Programs for North Korea, Research Institute of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.

Corresponding author: Jihyun Yoon. Department of Food and Nutrition, Seoul National University, 1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 08826, Korea. Tel: (02) 880-8750, Fax: (02) 884-0305, Email:
Received April 27, 2016; Revised June 19, 2016; Accepted June 19, 2016.

This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



This study compared the nutritional status of child-bearing age women between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).


The data presented in the DPRK Final Report of the National Nutrition Survey 2012 was utilized for the nutritional status and food intake of North Korean women. To produce the South Korean women's data comparable to those of North Korean women, the data from the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Survey were analyzed and the data presented in the 2010 Report of the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards were utilized.


The prevalence of maternal anemia (blood hemoglobin < 12.0 g/dL) was over 30% in all the age groups of North Korean women and 8.9%, 14.2%, 16.4% in 20-29, 30-39, 40-49 year old South Korean women, respectively. The prevalence of maternal protein-energy malnutrition (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference < 22.5 cm) was 25.2%, 21.4%, 21.8% in 20-29, 30-39, 40-49 year old North Korean women, respectively and less than 10% in all the age groups of South Korean women. Result of dietary diversity comparison showed that North Korean women consumed less food than South Korean women at all food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy. Percentage of North Korean women having consumed protein rich foods-meat and fish, eggs or dairy products-were much lower than those of South Korean women.


The striking disparity of nutritional status between South and North Korean women indicates that nutrition support for North Korean women is essential in the process of preparation for a unified nation.

Keywords: unified Korea; child-bearing aged women; KNHANS; DPRK National Nutrition Survey; health status


Fig. 1
Prevalence of anemia3) among child-bearing age women in North and South Korea
1) Data from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Final Report of the National Nutrition Survey 2012 [1]

2) Analyzing the data from Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2012 [22]

3) Assessed by blood hemoglobin < 12.0 g/dL

Click for larger image


Table 1
Distribution of study subjects by age groups in North and South Korea
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Table 2
Prevalence of protein and energy malnutrition1) among child-bearing age women in North and South Korea
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Table 3
Percentages of child-bearing age women having consumed respective food groups in North and South Korea
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