North Korea: We don’t need ‘flashy lights’

Dylan Stableford
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This Jan. 30, 2014 photo made available by NASA on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 shows North Korea, darker area at center, between South Korea, right, and China, left. Lights from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, are visible at center. The image comparing the night time lights of the countries was made by the Expedition 38 crew aboard the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA)

North Korea doesn’t need “flashy lights” to shine.

Last year, the communist nation was photographed at night from the International Space Station appearing dimly lit when compared to neighboring South Korea and China.

“The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan,” NASA noted of the image, which was taken by a member of NASA’s Expedition 38 as the space station flew over East Asia. Even the capital of Pyongyang (population: 3.26 million, as of 2008) is relatively dark compared to smaller cities in neighboring South Korea and China.

Observers speculated the photos were proof that the regime’s leaders have been unable — or unwilling — to create the infrastructure for a functioning power grid.

But according to a report from the British newspaper The Telegraph, a recent editorial published by North Korea’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun dismissed its detractors, saying critics may “clap their hands and get loud over a satellite picture ... but the essence of society is not on flashy lights.”

According to a 2014 report by the Korea Institute for National Unification, electricity in North Korea is “sporadic and unreliable, with homes that have electricity often receiving just a few hours per day.” About half of North Korea’s 24 million people live in extreme poverty, with most homes and apartments “heated by open fireplaces burning wood or briquettes.” And many homes “lack flush toilets.”

And power consumption per capita in North Korea is just 739 kilowatt hours, compared with 10,162 kilowatt hours in South Korea, according to World Bank data.

The editorial ignored a recent speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for “great efforts to relieve the shortage of electricity.”

Meanwhile, according to other excerpts published by The Telegraph, the editorial proclaimed that “the sun is going down” on the United States.

“The old superpower that is meeting its sunset may put on a face of arrogance, but it cannot avoid its dark fate,” the Rodong Sinmun editorial said.