North Korea has reportedly crafted new legal provisions to punish people and businesses who fail to regularly pay their electrical bills. This suggests the authorities intend to strictly deal with defaulters while simultaneously rooting out widespread corruption in the assessment of electrical fees.

Daily NK confirmed that a recently obtained copy of North Korea’s Administrative Penalties Law, revised in 2020, includes a new provision on “violating the legal order on the payment of electricity fees” (Article 123).

The article calls for “stern warnings, fines or up to three months of unpaid labor or reformatory labor” for those who fail to pay their electricity bill. In “serious circumstances,” defaulters face more than three months of unpaid labor or reformatory labor, or even demotions, firings or dismissals.

By “serious circumstances,” the law means repeated “violations of the legal order on the payment of electricity fees” or owing more than KPW 20,000 in unpaid electricity fees.

The first part of the article states that “failing to pay electricity usage fees precisely and on time for poor reasons or excuses” will be punished.

“Failing to precisely pay electricity usage fees” is defined as “failing to precisely pay per-purpose, seasonal and time-of-use electrical fees at the chosen time” and “failing to precisely pay electrical fees for active power, shutting off power and reactive power.”

In South Korea, electrical bills are calculated by several standards, including season (summer, spring, autumn and fall), time of use (light usage hours, medium usage hours and high usage hours), residential use and industrial use (mining, manufacturing, other industrial uses).

The article in question in North Korea’s recently revised Administrative Penalties Law. / Image: Daily NK

Going by the legal article, it appears North Korea levies its electrical fees using similar standards.

As ordinary households would have a difficult time understanding the specific standards, the section of the law in question appears aimed at workplaces. This is to say, if workplaces fail to calculate and pay their electricity bill properly, they face punishment.

The article also defined as illegal “failing to calculate electrical fees accurately and on time.”

The article defined this as “failing to calculate electrical fees at the given time, or arbitrarily omitting electrical consumption details, or completely denying or minimizing electrical fees by failing to record or only partly recording electricity consumption details or your fee payment status.”

In North Korea, most people in large cities or provincial capitals pay their fees according to how much electricity they consume using wattmeters.

In small provincial cities, however, many places lack such wattmeters. Because of this, the heads of local people’s units (inminban) tell residents their electrical bills every month.

One of the standards the inminban heads use to calculate the bill is power consumption by household appliances registered with the inminban. The inminban head levies the bill based on the total amount of electricity entering the district in question and energy consumption by appliances in each home. The bills are not based on accurate use numbers, but on rough calculations by the inminban heads.

Some locals pay lower electrical fees by neglecting to register electrical appliances with the inminban or falsely reporting that they have sold them.

This second list of violations in the article seemingly points out issues in calculating the fees for home electricity use and warns of punishments.

The new addition to the law is apparently a measure to boost local awareness regarding the calculation of household and industrial electrical bills.

Meanwhile, North Korean authorities have mandated the use of wattmeters since 2017. They also reportedly have a plan to levy in earnest a so-called “progressive tax” based on a family’s electricity consumption. However, they have been unable to put this plan into action due to resistance from locals concerned about rising electrical costs.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to