Nutr Res Pract.  2020 Apr;14(2):134-142. 10.4162/nrp.2020.14.2.134.

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

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Food and Nutrition, Inha University, 100 Inha-ro, Michuhol-gu, Incheon 22212, Republic of Korea. skleenutrition@inha.ac.kr
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University, 73, Inchon-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 02841, Republic of Korea.

Abstract

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.

Keyword

food security; eating behaviors; nutrient intake; refugees; Democratic People's Republic of Korea

MeSH Terms

Adult*
Calcium
Counseling
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Diet
Education
Energy Intake
Feeding Behavior
Female
Food Supply*
Humans
Iron
Korea*
Male
Meals
Nutrition Surveys
Refugees*
Riboflavin
Seoul
Vitamin A
Calcium
Iron
Riboflavin
Vitamin A
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