As 70 percent of the country’s electric supply is produced through hydroelectric conversion, winter is usually a very difficult time for North Koreans, as rivers freeze and power plants lose productivity. Frozen rivers are not to blame for the current lack of electricity, however, as residents in the northern provinces have been without electricity for almost 2 years now.

Last year, in late June, residents received a temporary reprieve from this situation, when their homes were suddenly supplied with electricity for 10 hours each day. According to an official of the South Korean government, “After Kim Jong-un met with Xi Jinping last summer, China appeared to supply electricity to North Korea.”

The North Koreans’ delight was short-lived however. In October, their lights were once more doused, as the electricity supply was cut off. The reason for this was that Kim Jong-un had decided to redirect electricity to Samjiyeon county, where construction for a new ‘special tourist zone’ was underway. The project eventually shuttered down, however, after builders ran out of construction materials and funding.

With no electricity supplied to their homes since the start of the construction in Samjiyeon, some northern residents turned to crime, finding ways to steal the electricity supplied to local government agencies and industrial facilities. This not only hampered the operations of these sites but also resulted in several dangerous fires caused by short-circuits. To address this rising issue, a government task force was created to eradicate illegal electricity use. The group has apparently had little success, however, with residents using bribes and connections with local officials to get away with stealing electricity.

A map of North Korea (produced by ASIAPRESS)

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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