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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A North Korean census report found in Russian archives reveals that North Korea lost 20% of its population during the Korean War of 1950-53.

According to 1953 figures of the Central Statistic Administration of the DPRK, obtained by the Center's Cold War International history Project (CWIHP), the country's population declined from 9,368,592 in 1948 to 7,425,939 in 1953. Official North Korean figures cite a total population in 1953 of 8,491,000.

The newly discovered census figures add important information to Russian reports on the war recently published by South Korea's Ministry of National Defense. According to Chosun Ilbo (Seoul, 25 June 2001), four volumes of reports by Soviet ambassador and chief military adviser to the DPRK, Lt.-Gen. V.N.Razuvaev, compiled by the Ministry's Institute of Military History, cite a total of 1.2 million civilian casualties for North Korea, which include 282,000 killed in bombing raids and 796,000 fled to the South or missing. The remaining 800,000 population loss therefore represents the total deaths from combat and natural causes.

In the absence of reliable statistics from North Korea, estimates of war losses on the northern side have varied widely, ranging from 1 million to 2.5 million, and the distribution has remained uncertain between military and civilian killed, and those who fled to the South.

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Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more