The theft of an electric train cable near Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, stopped train services for three days earlier this month, Daily NK has learned.

“At around 11 PM on May 1, someone cut and stole 60 meters of 3,300V electric train cable, which led to the stoppage of train services in the area from May 1 to May 3,” a South Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on May 24. 

Hamhung is widely known as a center of industry in North Korea. In addition to various shipbuilding facilities, the city is home to major industrial complexes such as the Ryongsong Bearing Factory, the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, the February 8 Vinylon Complex and the Hungnam Pharmaceutical Factory. 

Massive amounts of raw materials are shipped to the city by train, which means any stoppage in train services can lead to disruptions in operations at these facilities. 

Following discovery of the missing cable, North Korean authorities immediately dispatched workers to replace it and an investigation was launched to discover the culprits. 

“The provincial Ministry of People’s Safety and Ministry of State Security offices created an investigation team made up of around 30 people. The team takes its orders from the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office,” the source said. 

The investigators reportedly believe that it must have taken considerable time for the cable to be cut and taken away given its weight. 

Tire tracks left by a cargo track along with signs that someone had been working on the cable were discovered; however, these clues alone have not allowed investigators to pinpoint the culprits. 

Furthermore, because the location where the cable was cut is a relatively secluded location without much foot traffic, investigators have experienced difficulties identifying witnesses.

According to the source, the investigation team is looking into the possibility that workers at the Hamhung Railway Office took part in the crime.

“The investigative team is currently interrogating 10 workers at the Hamhung Railway Office along with other laborers who have worked on track repairs,” the source said. “They are currently investigating the office under the pretext that railway officials failed to properly manage the tracks.” 

“The government is threatening that railway officials will be held responsible if no one else can be blamed,” the source added. 

The theft of electric train cables in North Korea is considered a treasonous act. The incident may lead to the firing of the Hamhung Railway Office along with other railway officials, the source noted.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at