Saturday, July 11, 2009

N.Korea 'Reverses Conventional Wisdom on Human Growth'

A popular view in anthropology is that children born in late spring or early summer are taller than those born in late fall or early winter. Researchers from all over the world say it is a universal phenomenon regardless of race or region that height varies according to the time of birth.

Anthropologists have not been able to find out why, but guess that the amount of sunshine has some effect on physical growth of human beings. However, research on children born in the early 1990s in North Korea produced results that are exactly opposite of the conventional wisdom.

In an article on birth-season effects on height in the two Koreas published in the Annals of Human Biology on July 4, a research team led by Prof. Park Sun-young at the Department of Anthropology at Seoul National University said the study of some 2,000 North Korean children aged under six in 1996 and 1997 "showed that autumn birth cohorts were taller than the spring birth cohorts."

The researchers analyzed existing datasets of international organizations such as WHO. "The great famine and food shortage are thought to be the reasons why the common opinion in anthropology was contested in North Korea," Park said. "The result shows how serious the food shortages in North Korea in the 1990s were because analysis of South Korean children in the same period as well as children in both Koreas during the Japanese colonial period all showed spring birth cohorts were taller than the autumn birth cohorts."

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