Changes in body weight and food security of adult North Korean refugees living in South Korea

Ha Young Jeong, Soo Kyung Lee, Sin Gon Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Relocation to new environments can have a negative impact on health by altering body weight and dietary patterns. This study attempted to elucidate changes in body weight, food security, and their current food and nutrient consumption in adult North Korean refugees (NKR) living in South Korea (SK). SUBJECTS/METHODS: This study analyzed data on 149 adult NKR from a North Korean refugee health in SK cohort at four time points (leaving North Korea, entering SK, first examination, and second examination). Body weight was self-reported at the two earlier time points and directly measured at the two later time points. Food security, diet-related behaviors (dietary habits and food consumption), and sociodemographic information were obtained using a self-administered questionnaire. Nutrient intake information was obtained by one-day 24-hour recall. Statistical analyses were performed with SPSS ver 23.0. RESULTS: Body weight increased during relocation by an average of 4 kg, although diversified patterns were observed during the settlement period in SK. Approximately 39.6% of subjects maintained their body weight between the first and second examinations, whereas 38.6% gained and 22.1% lost at least 3% of their body weight at the first examination by the second examination. Food security status improved from 12.1% food secure proportion to 61.7%. NKR showed generally good food and nutrient consumption (index of nutrient quality: 0.77-1.93). The body weight loss group showed the most irregular meal consumption pattern (P < 0.05), and eating-out was infrequent in all three groups. Consumption frequencies of food groups did not differ by group, except in the fish group (P = 0.036). CONCLUSION: This study observed considerable body weight adjustment during the settlement period in SK after initial weight gain, whereas food security consistently improved. More detailed understanding of this process is needed to assist healthy settlement for NKR in SK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-318
Number of pages12
JournalNutrition Research and Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Body weight changes
  • Democratic people’s republic of Korea
  • Diet
  • Refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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