October 01, 2020

North Korea Coming Out Of The Dark?

In a now infamous 2002 news briefing, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointed to a picture of the Korean peninsula at night and stated, “south Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark”.  The picture quickly became synonymous with all that was wrong with North Korea, showing-casing a country pursuing a costly nuclear weapons program, simultaneously unable to feed or light its citizens.  News last week from NKEconwatch suggested that things may have since got worse – with remarkable Aidwatch images showing Pyongyang and Chongjin to be dimmer at night in 2008 than in 1992.   However, with a multitude of lighting related stories recently surfacing on KCNA, might North Korea finally be coming out of the dark?

KCNA started drawing attention to DPRK street-lighting efforts in April 2009 when it detailed the newly ‘spectacular night view of Wonsan’.  In September 2009 it was then Hamhung’s turn, with KCNA explaining that the city had “turned into a fascinating world of bright lights’.  Floodlights were allegedly installed at the Grand Theater, streetlights at various locations throughout the city, and even ‘rhythmic neon lamps in shapes of jumping fishes and flying seagulls’.