Comparisons of food security, dietary behaviors and nutrient intakes between adult North Korean refugees in South Korea and South Koreans

Ji Yoon Kim, Soo Kyung Lee, Sin Gon Kim

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: North Korean refugees (NKRs) in South Korea are a unique population as they must adapt in a new country with similar cultural traits but different social, political, and economic systems, but little research has been conducted on diet and nutrition in this population. This study examined food security, dietary behaviors, and nutrient intakes among adult NKRs living in South Korea and compared them to those of South Koreans. SUBJECTS/METHODS: The subjects were 139 adult NKRs (25 men, 114 women) living in the Seoul metropolitan area, and 417 age-and sex-matched South Korean controls (SKCs; 75 men, 342 women) selected from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES). Food security and dietary behaviors (meal skipping, eating-out, meals with family, nutrition education and counseling, and nutrition label knowledge and utilization) were obtained using self-administered questionnaires. Nutrient intakes were assessed by 24-hr recall. The statistical analysis was performed using IBM SPSS ver. 23.0. RESULTS: In South Korea, food security had improved over the previous 12 months, but remained significantly poorer for NKR women than SKC women. Meal skipping was three times more frequent than for SKCs and eating-out was rare. Average energy intake was 1,509 kcal for NKR men and 1,344 kcal for NKR women, which was lower than those of SKCs (2,412 kcal and 1,789 kcal, respectively). Significantly more NKRs (men 24.0%, women 21.9%) showed simultaneously deficient intake in energy, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and riboflavin than SKCs (men 2.7% (P = 0.003), women 7.0% (P < 0.001)). NKR women had a significantly higher index of nutrient quality (INQ) for some nutrients than SK women. CONCLUSIONS: This study reports significant differences in food security, dietary behaviors, and nutrient intakes between NKRs and SKCs. Generally, NKRs reported lower intakes despite improved food security, but relatively good INQs across nutrients. Further research is needed to understand processes of food choice and consumption among NKRs to provide appropriate support aimed at improving diets.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)134-142
    Number of pages9
    JournalNutrition Research and Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2020 The Korean Nutrition Society and the Korean Society of Community Nutrition.


    • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
    • Eating behaviors
    • Food security
    • Nutrient intake
    • Refugees

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Science
    • Nutrition and Dietetics


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