Map of North Korea (produced by ASIAPRESS)

◆Hyesan, the central city of Ryanggang Province

The city of Hyesan, in the northern Ryanggang Province, is the capital of the province and one of the hub cities for trade with China, but it has been hit hard by the coronavirus quarantine that has blocked the border. A relatively affluent resident living in the centre of the city said:

“The electricity supply is about 2 hours a day. About once a week it comes for 4 to 5 hours. I can’t even charge my cell phone. People who steal electricity used to let us charge our phones for a fee, but lately they don’t offer to do so anymore because they are afraid of being tipped off. Also, the water supply runs for about 2 hours a day, but because of the typhoid epidemic, it is mixed with disinfectant and smells too bad to drink.”

◆Progress in Installing Electricity Meters

Electricity bills are determined based on the number and type of appliances, but not based on the amount of electricity used. However, there is an officer from the electricity distribution department of the government who comes to check appliances from house to house.

After Kim Jong-un’s regime came to power, a system of charging based on the amount of electricity used was introduced, which means that electricity usage must now be monitored. Although the authorities planned to install electricity meters in all households from around 2017, all costs were to be borne by individuals. Since Chinese meters cost 20-30 US dollars, and the lack of electricity is an ongoing issue, Pyongyang residents have been highly resisting calls to install them and, as a result, the installation was delayed.

“It seems like the ‘user charge system’ has started recently,” says a reporting partner living in Musan county.
“The installation of electricity meters, which started in Pyongyang and the big cities, is now being strongly promoted in the provincial cities and counties as well. From now on, people will be asked to pay only for what they use. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can no longer buy Chinese made meters and we have to use meters made at the Daean Heavy Machinery Factory which is located at South Pyongan Province.”

※ ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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