North Korean soldiers electricity discharge chinese
North Korean soldiers walking near Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

On Nov. 5, North Korean authorities ordered its army to minimize the electricity consumption of military hospitals as well as during its winter training drills. Sources told Daily NK the direction came as part of efforts to solve the country’s persistent power shortages.

A source in the Korean People’s Army (KPA) revealed to Daily NK on Thursday that the General Staff Division ordered “orderly officers to control the lighting periods – thereby the electricity consumption – in military hospitals.” This means, “all orderlies are essentially required to turn off the lights at 9:50 pm, after the evening inspection,” he said.

All hospital wards had hitherto been able to determine their lighting periods individually, according to the source. “The hope is that the restrictions on lighting at night will save energy,” another source explained. However, hospitals are heavily dependent on an ever-present energy supply and their autonomy. This “irregular measure” is thus testimony “that the electricity shortages exist,” he said.


The new directive also jeopardizes the North Korean military’s annual winter training, which started in early December. “In some instances, the soldiers can’t run any drills which require electrical equipment, like tactical simulations, because power is only supplied for six hours a day,” a source told Daily NK.

Though North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has often emphasized the importance of practical field training for soldiers, “now they’re just pretending to go through the motions during practice time,” he said. “It’s all just talk.”

North Korean soldiers in Sakju County, North Pyongan Provinc
North Korean soldiers in Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. Image: Daily NK

The new order is actually undermining Kim Jong Un’s efforts to increase the discipline among North Korean soldiers. “They would previously train all day and memorize texts and sayings at night,” a source reported. “But that’s no longer possible. Younger soldiers, who were only recently enlisted are actually relieved because they’re now able to get a full night of sleep.”

Higher-ranking officers, however, are becoming increasingly anxious, according to the source. “Because they’re unable to conduct training and educational sessions in the evenings, they won’t be able to present good results when their training is evaluated. They’re scared they might get punished,” he explained.

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to