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A view of Hyesan, in North Korea’s Yanggang Province. / Image: Daily NK

North Koreans living in parts of Yanggang Province, including Hyesan, have not had access to tap water since mid-November, a source in the province told Daily NK yesterday.

“While tap water was not available due to power outages in the past, it’s very rare for tap water to be unavailable for such a long time,” he said.

The source explained that tap water has usually been supplied to residents of Hyesan once or twice a month. From mid-November, however, there has not been enough water supplied for people to do laundry or even to drink.

North Korean elites – the 5-10% of the population classified as government cadres and donju, or wealthy entrepreneurs – have long resorted to buying bottled water instead of relying on the country’s tap water system.

Ordinary North Koreans, meanwhile, typically use tap water for cooking and drinking. Consequently, the cutoff of tap water is a serious problem for people in the country.

“[People] are complaining about the issue, but the relevant government agency is simply emphasizing the [country’s poor] electricity situation and the fact that it is winter,” the source said, adding, “[The agency] is avoiding the issue by telling people to ‘endure things a little longer.’”

Before the shuttering of the North Korea-China border last year, Hyesan residents went down to the Yalu River at times designated by the authorities to gather drinking water or do their laundry. The closure of the border, however, has led to an end of this practice.

“Getting water is just as important as acquiring food,” the source said. “The authorities, however, are not taking any measures to improve the water shortage situation.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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