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Kim Jong Un wipes away tears as he calls on women in North Korea to have more babies

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to wipe away tears as he urged women to halt a decline in the country's birth rate.

Mr Kim was seen dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief in a rare moment of emotion as he addressed the National Mothers' Meeting in Pyongyang.

He appeared to be trying to hold back the tears throughout his speech as he called on women to help strengthen the power of the nation.

"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," Mr Kim told the meeting.

Experts believe many new families do not have more than one child in North Korea because "they need lots of money to raise their kids".

Accurate birth rate figures are difficult to compile because of the limited statistics disclosed by North Korea, which is one of the poorest nations in the world.

Assessments by South Korea's government show the fertility rate for its northern neighbour has been falling for the past 10 years.

The average number of babies expected to be born to a woman over her lifetime stood at 1.79 in North Korea in 2022, down from 1.88 in 2014.

The decline is still slower than in South Korea, where the birth rate last year was 0.78, down from 1.20 in 2014.

Mr Kim's tearful appeal is in marked contrast to birth control programmes introduced by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to slow a post-war growth in population.

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Then in the mid-1990s, a famine was estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people, sending the country's fertility rate into a sharp decline, according to a report published in August from Seoul-based Hyundai Research Institute.

"Many families in North Korea also don't intend to have more than one child these days as they know they need lots of money to raise their kids, send them to school and help them get jobs," said Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHealth.org, a website focusing on health issues in North Korea.

South Korea's statistics agency estimates the North's population is currently at 25.7 million.

The Hyundai institute report said North Korea's population was expected to shrink from 2034 and drop to 23.7 million by 2070.

North Korean state media reports the country has introduced benefits for families with three or more children.

These include preferential free housing arrangements, state subsidies, free food, medicine and household goods alongside educational perks for children.