North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un tearfully pleaded with his insular nation’s women to have more children to offset declining birth rates.
Flanked by other uniformed leaders, Kim said boosting the population would help to strengthen the country as audience members cried in emotional solidarity.
“Stopping the decline in birth rates and providing good childcare and education are all our family affairs that we should solve together with our mothers,” Kim said in his speech.
According to South Korea’s government statistics agency, the average North Korean woman was expected to have 1.79 kids in 2022, down from 1.88 in 2014.
While that number is far higher than in rival South Korea, where the fertility rate dipped to 0.78 in 2022, Kim asserted that North Korean women had to up their birth rate as he dabbed at his eyes with a white handkerchief.
The rapt crowd lustily applauded Kim at other points in the speech, state media images showed.
According to North Korean outlets, the country is offering special benefits for families with three or more children.
These include free housing, food, medicine, household goods and educational incentives.
Some observers have noted that Kim frequently appears in public with his young daughter, Ju Ae, in a possible public relations bid to encourage more families.
Sunday’s event — dubbed the National Mothers meeting — was the first one held in more than a decade.
In addition to having more kids, Kim counseled North Korean women to raise children in a way that would enhance the Communist nation’s future prospects.
Their priorities, Kim said, should “include bringing up their children so that they will steadfastly carry forward our revolution, eliminating the recently increasing non-socialist practices, promoting family harmony and social unity, establishing a sound way of cultural and moral life, making the communist virtues and traits of helping and leading one another forward prevail over our society, stopping the declining birth rate, and taking good care of children and educating them effectively.”
Declining population figures could have implications on a number of fronts for North Korea — including its military.
The nation boasts the fourth-largest standing army in the world with roughly 1.3 million soldiers — despite ranking 56th in total population.
Any acute decline in population could erode those ranks and potentially imperil the heavily sanctioned and largely isolated socialist government.