The census was conducted with help from the United Nations Population Fund.

It found that North Korea's population had increased from 21.2 million to 24.05 million over the 15 year period between the two censuses, despite a famine in the mid- to late 1990s which is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Aid groups say food shortages remain a serious problem in the country, with cuts in overseas donations to the North mean the situation has worsened in recent months.

Many countries have cut back on aid donations to the North in protest at its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

A report released last September by the UN's World Food Programme said one third of the country's children under five and a similar proportion of women are malnourished.

The latest census figures also showed living conditions for North Koreans were basic, with 65 per cent of households living in cramped two-room units.

Some 73 per cent of homes had a floor area of between 50-75 square metres, about 85 percent of homes had access to running water while 58 per cent had flush toilets.