- Annual winter power shortages more severe this year
- Thermal power generation not possible
- Factories and business have their power discontinued, workers help out with farming labor
- Miners also affected, leave the pits behind
- Power redirected to the railways, train services hit
- Handphones can't be recharged, cut off from outside
A source in Hyaesan, Yanggang Province reports on January 20th that "The New Year has seen a dramatic worsening in the area's electricity supplies. Power has been out for twenty days straight. Nationwide the situation is similar, even in Pyongyang, where although there is some supply regular people are getting no more than one or two hours a day." Because of this North Koreans are not merely undergoing the usual daily hardships but are beginning to wonder if the country is on its last legs.
"Power stations," the source went on, "have insufficient coal supplies and so electricity production is out of the question. There's an acute energy crisis." In a stymying vicious circle, the lack of electric power necessary to drive the motors which rid the mine of stagnant water means the shaft can't be entered in order to dig the coal necessary to produce the electricity the country needs. And because of the recent cessation in distribution to the miners of their daily 800 grams of rations, workers have downed tools and left the mine.
The general power supply situation is not as problematic in the summer when the heavy rainfall North Korea receives enables it to produce hydroelectric power. In the winter, a reduction in hydroelectric power has usually led to a worsening of the supply situation. But the situation this winter is considerably worse than usual. Amidst this power crisis, an official declared, "The railways are the arteries of North Korea and when they come to a standstill the country's heart stops beating." Factories and economic production has been killed off and all power redirected to the railways, the official added. Most factories and businesses having ceased production, the people have gone to farming villages to help plow and labor in the fields.
Nevertheless, in spite of the redirection of the people's electricity supply to the railways, the system is not running normally. Trains are the sole means of long distance transportation in North Korea and require automotive power. But the lack of available power has caused chaos in the system and people are having to sit up to a week at a time in stations awaiting their departures. Then once they have boarded further problems of supply en route are causing the journey from Hyaesan to Pyongyang, for example, to take up to a week. Ordinarily, it would be completed in three days.
The source also reported that, "The absence of power supply is making it difficult to communicate with outside sources via cell phones." Phones are not being recharged and it is getting harder to receive outside information, rendering the people's isolation complete. Following hard on the recent severe hike in rice prices, the everyday difficulties for North Koreans are now wretched.