UPDATE : 2019.11.20 WED 09:21
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U.S. monitor outlines N. Korea's shift to smaller hydroelectric power stations

Climate and engineering setbacks have forced North Korea to shift its strategy for hydroelectric power production, a source of great pride for the late former leader, Kim Jong-il, according to a U.S. monitor.

The photo carried by the newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party on Nov. 18, 2015, shows the country's leading officials gathered at a ceremony the previous day to mark the launch of 10 multi-tier power stations on the Chongchon River in the northern region. The report said the new facilities will "contribute to the building of an economic power and improvements of people's living standard."

38 North, which provides analysis and satellite imagery of North Korea, said the communist regime has been moving toward building small-to-medium-sized, tiered hydroelectric power stations instead of large ones, such as the Huichon Power Station.

The Huichon station, it said, was meant for Kim to be "a symbol of North Korean pride and its peoples' ingenuity."

"Unfortunately, it also became a major source of frustration as climate and engineering failures seemed to conspire against the project, and Huichon has yet to achieve its output goals," the monitor said in an article dated Wednesday.

Kim's son and current leader, Kim Jong-un, continued to champion the project for two years after his father's death in 2011, but he has since changed the country's strategic plan for energy production to focus on smaller-sized stations, such as those now built along the Chongchon River, according to 38 North.

"From their beginning, setbacks were common in the construction and operation of the large Huichon Power Stations, and harsh weather experienced throughout the region has impacted the efficiency of all its dams," it said. "Severe winter cold causes ice to build, constricting the flow of water and thus, slowing turbine speeds, which in turn diminishes the power output. Additionally, drought and extreme summer heat have plagued North Korea for the past two years, further impacting water levels and electrical output."

A new strategy was announced by Kim Jong-un in his 2014 New Year's address, and a 10-plant project along the Chongchon River was reportedly complete and operational by late 2015.

"The entire project was completed at a far faster pace than that associated with the construction of the large hydroelectric power stations," 38 North said. "While imagery coverage of the entire stretch of the 10-plant project has been inconsistent, what is available indicates most of the construction on the dams began in 2013, but at least two dams were not started until 2014."

They all appear complete or nearly complete in the latest imagery, although it's difficult to discern the presence of electric power lines, it added.

The monitor also cited a May 2019 article published by the North's Korean Central News Agency as stating: "It is the policy of the Workers' Party of Korea to build minor power stations in a practical way and ensure their normal operation for bringing substantial benefit (to) the people." (Yonhap)

Lee kyung-sik  edt@koreapost.com

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