North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un broke down in tears during his address at the “national conference of mothers” this week, where he passionately urged women to embrace communist ideals and play a crucial role in reversing the country’s declining birth rate. This emotional plea stands out as a departure from the stoicism often associated with Kim and his forefathers, signaling a shift in leadership style.
Kim’s poignant remarks, published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), underscored the regime’s heightened concern over the diminishing population and its potential impact on the stability of the impoverished authoritarian state. The two separate speeches delivered on Sunday and Tuesday highlighted the regime’s emphasis on mothers indoctrinating their children into communism, with Kim asserting that without mothers adopting communist values, it would be impossible to raise children as dedicated revolutionaries.
Kim’s call for mothers to fulfill their government requirement to “become communist” was coupled with an acknowledgment of the country’s declining birth rate, a topic rarely addressed by the secretive regime. The leader urged women to procreate more assertively, framing it as a patriotic duty and a contribution to the strengthening of the nation.
North Korea is grappling with one of the lowest fertility rates globally, hovering around 1.8 children per woman, well below the 2.1 required for “replacement fertility.” South Korean government officials suggest that Kim’s conference aimed at preventing a similar birth rate decline in North Korea, potentially by preventing ideological deviations among the younger generation and reinforcing the regime’s control through family education.
However, skepticism persists regarding the effectiveness of such measures, given the dire economic conditions in North Korea. Many families in the country struggle to meet basic needs, and concerns about raising children in the face of poverty contribute to the reluctance to have more than one child. Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, noted that economic factors, including the high cost of raising children, contribute significantly to the reluctance of North Korean families to have more than one child.
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