By Joey Hung
Sunrise to sunset: Natural light dictates the schedule of life in North Korea.
Astronauts recently took a photo of the area from 200 miles up. North Korea, sandwiched between China and South Korea, looks like a black hole or a dark ocean between the two brightly lit countries
North Korea has an energy shortage.
Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center
The average per capita power consumption in North Korea is 739 kilowatt hours, compared to 10,162 in South Korea, according to the World Bank.
North Korea used to get its energy from the Soviet Union for cheap, but the communist collapse put an end to that.
Then the United States offered to help in return for North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program, but that deal fell apart.
There has been a sharp decline in assistance from China, also a major supplier of energy to North Korea Recently, China has started to implement sanctions against the country as a warning against further nuclear tests.
For the first time, China sent no oil to North Korea in the first quarter of this year, reported Yonhap, South Korea’s largest news wire service.
Domestically, North Korea relies on it’s own coal and hydropower as well as wood from its forests.
North Korea rations its energy. At night, the streets of Pyongyang are dark, the lights off. People walk and bike the streets in the dark.
At the brightly-lit Kaeson Youth park, rides only run when full and are turned off when idle.
During a visit to the West Sea Barrage, about 70km northwest of Pyongyang, the lights went out in the middle of the presentation tourists. They stopped and ushered us out of the building as if nothing has happened.
In the tourist hotel, everyone stays on the same floors. Once I got off on the wrong floor and it was so dark I could hardly see.
In tourist spots, you must inform staff you want to use the washroom so they can turn the lights on first.
Barbara Dmyock, in her book “Nothing to Envy,” wrote that the North Koreans have learned to love the dark because it gives illicit young couples a way to meet. No one can see them.
But not everywhere is dark. The limited energy is used to keep the lights on at the massive Grand People’s Study House and the Tower of the Juche Idea nearly all the time.