The North Korean government’s ambitious efforts to install electricity meters in ordinary homes to measure electricity usage and draw fees based on those measurements have run into opposition from North Koreans in some parts of the country, Daily NK has learned.

A North Korean source based in South Pyongyan Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that the government began full-fledged efforts to require the installation of electricity meters in 2017. The government had planned to implement a “progressive tax” system based on the amount of electricity used in each household as part of efforts to increase electricity fees.

Efforts to install the devices in Pyongyang and other major cities such as Nampo did not face opposition. In areas where solar panels had become a common source of electricity, however, locals opposed the installation of the devices, even threatening “not to use electricity from the state anymore,” according to the source.

“People really opposed the installation of the measuring devices when [a representative] from the [local] Electricity Department came out to local inminban meeting to say that installing the devices was required,” the source said, using a term referring to North Korea’s lowest administrative unit. “Some people with aggressive personalities even got angry, asking [the representative] why they should install the devices when they only receive a couple hours of electricity from the state per day, and that it would be better to just cut the electricity lines.

“There were many people who argued that almost no one would want to [install the devices] because they already have to pay for the electricity from solar panels they bought with their own money,” the source continued, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Ultimately, it was decided [during the meeting] that fees would be levied on each electronic device in people’s home.”

In fact, local authorities in areas of the country where electricity meters have not been installed are reportedly just levying electricity fees based on the number of electronic items households possess.

“Recently, there’s been no need to install the electricity meters because a fee has been levied on each electronic device in people’s homes,” the source said. “Government officials have been alerted to the fact that there are people who haven’t registered all the devices they own, but they haven’t taken any measures [to remedy this situation].”

There have been attempts by people to hide the number of devices they have and to bribe inminban leaders in charge of keeping track of the devices to turn a blind eye. Nonetheless, there is an increasing number of people who believe that levying fees on the number of devices is the most “rational” payment system available.

“There will continue to be people who complain until the [government] moves to [more strongly encourage people to] install electricity meters and ceases to levy fees on electricity created by solar panels,” the source said. “The [authorities] could force people [to install the meters] by saying the Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] has ordered it, but that alone won’t change the minds of people who argue for a ‘rational’ [electricity fee system].”

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to