Power supply issues are causing serious problems for the North Korean transport network in mountainous northern areas, sources have confirmed.
More than 85% of North Korea’s railways are electrified, but hydroelectric dams provide most of the power and, as a result, supplies are at their most unreliable in winter when the Korean Peninsula tends to be dry. However, dams and power plants constructed in recent years to overcome shortages of fuel for other generation methods have also been constructed shoddily using predominantly manual labor, and this has led to poor outcomes.
A source from Yangkang Province said on the 21st, “The No.1 and No.2 trains that ply the route from Pyongyang to Hyesan and back are stopping at Kilju rather than coming all the way up here. The train apparently doesn’t have the power to cross Baekam Ridge.”
When it is running properly, the Hyesan-bound train leaves Pyongyang along the mainline east coast route, arriving in Kilju in North Hamkyung Province, whereupon the train is divided and half travels the Baekdu Youth Line up to the Yangkang Province city. However, trains en route to Baekam have always been prone to getting into difficulties, and accidents are not uncommon.
The source stated, “It ought to take about six hours from Kilju to Hyesan, but because of accidents and power issues passengers get off at Kilju and take buses or vans up to Hyesan.”
Indeed, he even added, “It is not actually so uncommon for the No.7-8 train on the east coast mainline and the No.9-10 train that goes up to Musan from Chongjin to turn around at Kilju as well.
“Right now it costs something like 25,000 to 30,000 won per person from Kilju to Hyesan by bus, and around 40,000 won to Musan.”
The story was also recently reaffirmed recently by the defector-run North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, which noted in its own report, “On the 30th of last month it became impossible for the train to travel from Pyongyang to Hyesan due to a lack of power, so it stopped at Kilju in North Hamkyung Province instead of Hyesan.”