North Koreans are suffering from a chronic power shortage.
Even when electricity came, the voltage was low, so many homes used boosters to run appliances and the like. The booster ignited frequently and got a fire. (Park Yong-mi, “The Choice to Live”)
Pyongyang is the only gas source in North Korea. Therefore, when cooking, it generally means electricity, but this electricity cannot be used all the time, but only flows for a few hours, such as late at night. North Korea has an electric appliance called “electric heater (heater)”.
Of course, it could not be a high-tech device, it was just an electric heater made by winding a nichrome wire to 220 volts. It was a low-tech electric stove, but it was used not only for cooking but also for heating. This further exacerbated the worsening electricity situation, and authorities restricted the amount of time that electricity could be passed without using electric power. No gas or electricity.
Coal distribution has also been stopped. A tree called a tree is cut out, and the mountain is a bald mountain. This exacerbated the flood damage. No firewood or tree branches to fuel. All that remains is briquettes. It was just hardened peat and the fire was bad, so it was barely enough to cook while raising smoke.
The water situation is the worst. There is no water even if there is a tap. Therefore, water fetching is an important task of housewives in every home. Every morning I get up early, carry my back on my back, and go a kilometer away to get some water. Also, it takes 30 minutes to make two buckets of water because the water only comes out from the water inlet. (Shinichi Nebe, North Korean Asylum 730 Day Document)
Authorities stopped using electricity from evening until around 10 o’clock because they didn’t use electricity. As a result, every home has to cook once in the morning and save it for dinner to save fuel. (Shinichi Hebe “I want to live!-Escape from hunger and despair”)
At night, the power plant stops supplying power and the town sinks into darkness. During the daytime blackouts were only a few minutes when I was little.
It became increasingly frequent and lasted for several days, and eventually weeks, around 1995. As a result, the water pump stopped running, and every time the power outage ended, the faucet had to be opened and the water had to be stored.
However, if it lasts too long, you can bring a bucket to a nearby village to get water. Sometimes my dad went, but fetching water was usually my only son’s job.
Even when everyone was in need, the statue of Kim Il Sung continued to shine throughout the night. Some said it was brighter than usual, but they didn’t want to touch it. (Kang Hyuk, Children of North Korea)
What is the cause of the power shortage?
In the mountains of North Korea, large and small rivers with fast currents run vertically and horizontally. North Korea’s hydroelectric capacity provided 90 percent of the Korean Peninsula’s electricity demand before the North and South Splits.
However, the Kim-dominated North Korean government has neglected to install and maintain a robust national transmission network powered by ubiquitous hydropower stations. When the Soviet Union stopped providing cheap fuel oil in the early 1990s, thermal power plants installed in urban areas stopped one after another, turning off the lights in most parts of the country. Even the power to turn on the lights in Pyongyang is not enough for domestic power generation. (Brain Harden, Shin Shun Dong, “Escape from the 14th Office”)
The TV does not work properly when switched on. The screen projected on the CRT suddenly shrunk to a small size and then returned to its original state. The cause is that the electric wire drawn at home is not a copper wire as in Japan, but something like an ordinary wire, so the voltage does not flow constantly. (Zhang Akihide, Betrayed Paradise)
In North Korea, the North Blue Power Station is the largest, but currently only two of the eight turbines are in operation. At Pyongyang Thermal Power Station, only two of the six turbines are barely operating. Therefore, Pyongyang is also supplied with electricity only in the downtown area. In the rural areas, power outages continued for so long that televisions and refrigerators became useless.
(Kan Myong-do, North Korea’s Top Secret)
Power shortages are associated with food shortages. A Central Party censorship group was dispatched to a coal mine in the Anzhou district to check coal production. Censors questioned the cause of the slump in coal production.
Coal miners’ response was that firstly the miners were hungry and unable to work, and secondly that the forestry sector did not supply anti-wood.
Therefore, when censorship groups pursue forestry executives, workers would not be able to work, first of all because they would not be provided with food, and secondly, they would have to travel deep into the mountains, where timber resources were depleted and transportation was inconvenient. Rather, he says there are no cars or machinery to choose timber, and no gasoline.
In addition, pursuing executives at the mining machinery plant said they could not manufacture machinery because of the lack of food, workers were unable to work, and no material or electricity was supplied. Even censoring the power generation sector would have the same food shortage, and would not be able to generate electricity because of the lack of coal.
In the end, the action taken by the Central Party censorship group gave coal miners a bit of food from the United Nations in small parts, advocating the idea of ”fasten the belt and bring about a revolutionary spirit of self-rehabilitation!” It was just. The workers nourished their families with the kilograms of food they distributed, but were forced to work until they became hesitant. (Antetsu Brothers, “North Korea Seen by a Secret Camera”)