Economic Collapse Reflected in Scarce Electricity

By 2008, the average North Korean citizen was still consuming less electricity per year than had been the case at the beginning of the 1970s, new statistics have revealed.

Based on International Energy Agency (IEA) documentation, the statistics, which were made public on the 6th via Statistics Korea’s ‘North Korea Statistics Portal’, reveal that per capita electricity consumption in 2008 remained just 819kWh, substantially lower than the 919kWh recorded in 1971.

The figures are just the latest symbolic indicator of the protracted economic decline that began in the 1990s, when the national economy collapsed following the fall of the Soviet Union and the sudden demand that the majority of fuel imports be paid for in hard currency.

Rooted in the provision of low cost fuel by its larger communist neighbors, North Korean electricity consumption had risen steadily until 1991. By 1980 it had reached 1114kWh per capita, a figure that rose again over the next decade to reach 1247kWh by 1990. However, by 1995 it had declined precipitously to 912kWh, and at its nadir in 2000 per capita usage figure was just 712kWh.

This decline was subsequently arrested; however, the following seven years (including 2004 (787kWh), 2005 (817kWh), 2006 (797kWh) and 2007 (762kWh)) reflected how the country was (and remains) unable to recover to the 1990 standard, with population growth outstripping improvements in electricity generation.

In 1971, North Korea had a population of just 14.6 million, but by 2008 this was estimated to have risen to 23.9 million.

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