Gynaecologist Says Poor Diet Affects Health of Female North Korean Defectors
Female defectors from North Korea experience their first menstruation several years later than average South Korean women due to insufficient nutrition earlier in life.
The research by a team led by Koo Seung-yup, a gynaecology professor at Seoul National University, showed that the female refugees menstruated for the first time at an average age of 16.
The team surveyed the first menstruation and diet habits of 411 female defectors currently residing in defectors' facilities in the South. The average age of the surveyed women was 31.
The defectors' average age of menstruation is approximately two to four years later than those of South Korean women, according to the study.
Menstruation occurred earliest among the defectors who had meat- based diets, followed by those whose diets were based on grain and vegetables. The defectors who had fewer sleeping hours also had later menstruation, according to the study.
The team attributed the late menstruation to insufficient nutrition and overall living conditions as well as genetic factors.
"While the survey cannot represent the entire female population of the North, it holds great significance as the first medical data collected from women who have grown up there," said Koo.
Nearly 6,700 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the Korean War, including 1,894 last year alone. Seoul expects the number of defectors to exceed 10,000 in a few years.