Locals criticize new dam construction in North Korea

Hydroelectric power station in North Korea
Hydroelectric power station in North Korea. Image: DPRK Today

Government plans to build a mid-sized hydroelectric power plant in Kimjongsuk County, Ryanggang Province, to address the area’s electricity problems. The local population is being kept informed as preparations for the construction of the dam begin, North Korean sources recently told Daily NK.

The dam will be built upstream of the Jangjin River, which flows into the Yalu River from its source in the Kaema Plateau.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for the construction of more power plants to resolve the country’s electricity problems as part of efforts to increase economic production and improve the lives of the people. North Korea’s total electricity production was 7.43 million kW in 2015, with hydroelectric power making up 52.6% of the total energy production. There are large and mid-sized dams constructed along most of North Korea’s rivers.

Kim visited the Orangchon Dam construction site in July after learning that construction on that dam had slowed down. He strongly criticized the Party’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) and key economic bureaucrats. On May 4 this year, Kim visited the Kumya River No. 2 Power Plant in South Hamgyong Province and expressed satisfaction with the smooth progress of construction. He also promised local officials that the central government would send electricity generation equipment.

“The authorities informed local residents of Kimjongsuk County in mid-May that a dam would be built in the area to provide stable electricity for families and factories” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK, adding that construction on the site is slated to begin this year.

“County officials told local residents that the dam will create a lake upstream of the Jangjin River, which flows from the Songdong and Sinchangdong rivers. The dam will be built as quickly as possible,” the source said, adding that officials also told local residents that houses and farms in the area will disappear underwater, so residents there need to prepare to move.

A separate source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK that officials informed local residents that they would need to participate in the project through their inminban (neighborhood watch-like units) for the dam construction to be a success.

“They told us that the benefits of the new dam will be enjoyed by local residents, so everyone should be happy,” he said.

Officials also said that all local inminban will be mobilized to work on the dam construction and that the head of one inminban told his unit members to take part in the construction “in a resolute and loyal manner”.

However, according to the sources, the local residents of Kimjongsuk County are expressing discontent over the planned construction of the dam. They know that electricity in the area has been diverted to the Samjiyon County modernization project over the years and that large numbers of construction teams made up of local residents have been mobilized to work on that project. The new dam project, in their eyes, will only exhaust them even further.

The new dam will be constructed near Samjiyon County, which also suggests that the project is part of efforts by local officials to “achieve results” in a part of the country where Kim Jong Un has shown a great deal of interest.

The designs for the new dam have been completed and construction on the project will begin soon, the sources predicted, noting that support for the project is expected to come from both the central and provincial governments.

Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.