Heechon Opening Hides Troubles

Yesterday, Kim Young Nam, the head of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Choi Yong Rim, North Korea’s Prime Minister, were among the regime elite figures present at a ceremony at Heechon Power Plant in Jagang Province.

Built to provide power to downtown Pyongyang, the hydroelectric facility is meant to be one of North Korea’s marquee engineering projects slated to go into operation in 2012, and as such was the site of four of Kim Jong Il’s trademark onsite guidance inspections in 2010 alone and five in total.

“Thanks to the struggle of construction workers including military personnel, the prospect of finishing this project before 2012 has opened up. Before the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Supreme Leader, the entire Party, military and the people should battle to get this power plant construction finished,” Kim reportedly said on his fourth such visit in December, 2010.

Designed to generate 300,000kw, the plant now becomes the largest of all North Korea’s ‘operational’ hydroelectric dams. According to the propaganda that accompanied the construction every step of the way, the electricity generated by Heechon is supposed to make big inroads into the country’s power generation shortfall.

However, according to one inside source, the determination to declare the project complete by April 2012 hides a less impressive reality. In truth, the electricity transmission facilities are apparently incomplete, while problems gathering enough water behind the dam mean that the production of electricity for civilian consumption is still some way off.

One inside source explained, “They already had a ceremony for Heechon last September, but electricity has still not been produced yet because of the transmission facilities. And even when that is finished, they cannot fill up the reservoir behind the dam so generation will still be very difficult.”

“Experts in North Korea say that getting enough water for the dam is harder than building the thing,” the source went on. “Gathering enough water to spin the turbines at Heechon looks like it will take a while.”