Reports are emerging of resistance across North Korea to the regime’s recent directive ordering citizens to purchase new home electricity meters. Multiple sources are reporting that people are seeing the move as an unfair attempt to extract electricity taxes.
One source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on November 20 that “as early as this past spring, the authorities began handing down orders through neighborhood people’s units to purchase the electricity meters, but people are not responding positively.”
The source quoted a local resident as saying, “We’ve been getting electricity through solar panels that we installed years ago. Why is the government trying to tax us for it?”
Residents are reportedly being ordered to connect the meters to measure electricity gained through sources other than the main grid. Another source in Ryanggang Province echoed similar statements coming from residents, saying that, “demanding taxes for electricity gained through our own solar panels is unjustified.”
“The authorities in Ryanggang distributed lecture materials this past summer demanding that citizens purchase the prepaid card-reading smart electricity meters, apparently to reduce electricity wastage. But they’re expensive (around 240,000 KPW or US$30 including installation), and due to the poor harvest and tough economic times, not many people are following through with the orders,” she continued.
Cadres tasked with implementing the project are also reacting negatively to the order. One person working in the electricity sector told the Ryanggang-based source, “Electricity meters should in principle be provided by the government, so who is going to accept the order to buy it themselves?”
Resistance to orders such as these began to increase following the collapse of the state distribution system in the mid-1990s. The country has since seen the rise of individualism and dependence on the free market, which has brought greater rejection of state control.
As a result, the Propaganda and Agitation Department has found itself unable to implement the regime’s directives. While domestic electricity production is increasing as a result of sanctions cutting off coal exports, the majority of power produced by the state is sent straight to the elites.
An additional source in South Pyongan Province noted that people are pushing back because the government is trying to collect taxes despite failing to provide access to electricity.
“And yet,” he said, “the authorities are still trying to proclaim that electricity distribution has improved.”