January 06, 2020 11:42
North Korea is suffering from a serious shortage of electricity and food, affecting even the privileged residents of Pyongyang, according to sources.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un admitted economic "hardship" and "difficulties" in his speech at last month's Workers Party Central Committee meeting.
A North Korean source on Friday said hydroelectric power plants, which account for more than 50 percent of North Korea's electricity generation, have stopped operating, while thermal power plants are running at reduced capacity due to coal shortages and malfunctions.
Pyongyang has been suffering three to five hours of power outages a day since last month, the source added.
UN sanctions have banned the North from exporting coal, prompting the regime to divert its coal supplies to domestic power stations at less than 1/10 of export prices. This has left it with less money to spend on upgrading mining equipment, leading to declining coal production and electricity generation.
The North also does not have enough food to feed its people as it was hit by a drought and African swine fever.
Cho Han-bum at the Korea Institute for National Unification said, "Market prices and currency values have been stabilizing recently, but this was due to intervention by North Korean authorities and weakened people's purchasing power. At the same time, a drought has resulted in poor crop yields, which could make the already stricken economy worse."
Radio Free Asia cited sources in China as saying that major shipments of food aid began on Jan. 1 by rail connecting the Chinese border town of Dandong with Sinuiju in North Korea.
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