North Korea’s continuous drought and fuel
shortages have caused power outages due to suspended production in the nation’s
power plants. As a result, residents are experiencing a dearth in allotments of
electricity, which are already extremely low, and the train system has been rendered almost inoperable.
“The drought lasted for a number of months
and so the hydraulic power plant’s water supply decreased rapidly,” a source in North
Hamgyung Province reported to Daily NK on October 16th. “Most major cities
including Chongjin have experienced a halt in power supply for a number of
“Any electricity available is being
allocated to farms for the threshing process of the harvest, so the cities are blanketed in darkness,” he said, going on to explain that the
largest dam associated with Seodusu Power Plant was built as another “speed
battle” related to the “Chosun Speed,” emphasized during the Kim Jong Eun era.
This concept focuses on completing projects as quickly as possible, with little to no emphasis on safety or quality, and in this case, has led to large-scale water leakages from the plant’s shoddy construction. Combined with the severe drought, this ideology has brought power output to an extreme low.
According to the source, provincial Party
cadres have reportedly said, “The plant itself is poorly constructed so there’s
nothing we can do about it.”
Moreover, trains are unable to
transport fuel on time, so power production at the Chungjin
Thermoelectric Power Plant has also plummeted. “The coal mines in Hyeryung
are unable to transport coal to Chongjin and the equipment in the mines is
functioning at 1/10 of its capacity in the past,” the source explained. “About 1 in 5 machines
is currently operational.”
Residents are particularly outraged at the
lack of power, “They can’t run the water pumps due to the blackouts, so the
supply of tap water has been biggest issue for us.” He elaborated by saying, “Most people are using wells, and the number of those falling ill from colitis [an inflammation of the
colon which may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea with
or without blood] and diarrhea has spiked; even so, trying to get what’s left
in the wells is a daily struggle.”
The power shortages have also wreaked havoc
on the train schedules; routes such as the Pyongyang-Musan line, as well as the
Pyongyang- Tumen River line, are experiencing power failures on dozens of
sections of the tracks, forcing the trains to turn around halfway
through the trip, never to arrive at their intended destinations.
In addition to the tap water, the inability
of residents to charge the batteries kept in their homes has posed the most
problems. A system has emerged where residents bribe workers at power plants to
provide them with some electricity; in other cases, residents cut into power cables themselves to steal enough to charge the batteries on which they are so reliant.
“This process allows people to charge the 12V 50-60A batteries we use in our homes and then we can charge our mobile phones,” the source said, regarding those who bribe workers at the plants. “You have to find large factories like steel mills to do it though, and the fee for charging a battery for an hour costs approximately 5,000 KPW.”
He went on to say that if residents go about connecting to the lines on their own, they do so around the
homes of Party cadres, which generally see far more consistent and higher supplies of electricity.
“North Korea is a country without the
letter ‘Rieul.’ In Korean, the words ‘water’, ‘lights,’ and ‘rice’ all use this character, and all
are in short supply [in North Korea],” he said. “The newspaper reported that electricity
production is on the rise, but I don’t know where all that power went.”