The division of the Korean Peninsula has been symbolized by electricity. While South Korea lights up on satellite images, North Korea is dark. Using archival documents from North Korea’s former communist allies and Pyongyang’s state-run media, the author argues that the DPRK’s electricity shortages were not a result of the regime’s Juche ideology but rather an outcome of overreliance on Soviet assistance. This analysis disputes the notion of North Korea’s Juche ideology as a totalizing phenomenon within the DPRK’s political structure. By presenting a multifaceted history of North Korea’s electricity sector, the author highlights the ways in which Pyongyang engaged with Soviet electrification aid and global energy trends generally.
When the Lights Went Out: Electricity in North Korea and Dependency on Moscow (International Journal of Korean Unification Studies Vol. 29, No. 1, 2020, 107-134)