How North Koreans overcome the shortage of electricity

26 03 2008

Voltage converter

The Daily NK describes how North Koreans, who have faced chronic shortages of electricity, use conventional and alternative means to meet their basic needs.

“People overcome the shortage of electricity on their own. They import a large number of batteries from China. In addition, there are many households which have a bicycle generator,” Mr. Shin said, “Even though no electricity is provided by the state, people can manage to get by. Indeed, they get used to the shortage of electricity and can solve the problem on their own.”

– A similar situation was in the USSR well until the later 1970s – early 1980s. Not only in provinces but in the large cities too.

“Unlike their counterparts in the city, many people in the rural areas do not use motor vehicle batteries because they need not only the battery but also a 220v converter, current transformer and low voltage circuit breaker to watch TV and video, Mr. Shin said.”

– The picture above shows such batteries and a voltage converter.

“In North Korea, it costs 70,000 North Korean Won to get a used motor vehicle battery and 120,000 to 160,000 North Korean won to get a new one. Considering the availability of repair services, people prefer to buy the domestically produced ‘Daedong River Battery’ to its Chinese counterpart even though Chinese one is of better quality,” said the merchant.

– That’s correct! Last October I checked the prices for small generators sold at the T’ongil Market in Pyongyang and was asked 140,000 NKW. However, in Pyongyang people have more cash in hands.  However, a greater variety of consumer goods in Pyongyang markets makes the competition there stronger.

When asked whether North Korean people complain about the shortage of power, the merchant said, “Do you think the government has ever provided anything for its people? These days, people have become accustomed to making a living with their own hands even if there is no provision from the government.”

– People in NK, like it was in the former USSR, have little expectations of government ability to help them with their daily needs. But they don’t blame the government for inefficiency. Instead, they see the source of their misery in the hostility of foreign nations (first of all the US), continuing conflict with South Korea, the collapse of Socialism in China and Russia, and natural disasters….




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