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[Editorial] Electricity Cut and Electricity Reconnected

Posted March. 10, 2005 22:46,   


The competition between North and South Korea started in earnest in May 1948. The North unilaterally stopped providing electricity, arguing that the South did not pay its utility bill. The North seemed to have the intention to teach the South that South Korea, which was focused on farming, could not stay afloat without North Korea’s help as it established an independent government. At that time, the South depended on the North for 50 to 60 percent of its electricity supply. The output of South Korea’s industrial products dropped to one-twentieth and people in the South even could not light a bulb without concern.

At that time, the North overrode the South in heavy and chemical industry and infrastructure. However, the North has become one of the poorest countries in the world by pursuing juche ideology, its unique principle, and a closed economy, while the South has achieved development in the economy through breathtaking industrialization, despite the claim that the South poured its all energy into the economy without considering other things. The competition of systems between the two countries is not meaningful any more. One wonders what the late director of North Korea electricity bureau Lee Mun-hwan, who ordered the short circuit, would have said about the realities of the two countries if he were still alive today.

Electricity is a basic infrastructure element. How much a country uses electricity is an indicator of its opulence. In 2003, the amount of electricity generated by the North, 19.6 billion kWh, merely accounted for six percent of that generated by the South. The North was not even able to operate its existing facilities given the fact that the North has 13.9 percent of the generation capacity of the South. The gap in the amount of electricity generation potential leads to the difference in compatibility. The capacities of South Korea’s car production, cement and synthetic fiber industries are 662, 10.7, and 85.5 times those of the North.

Electricity produced by the South is heading North 57 years after the short circuit. Around 15,000kW, enough to supply electricity to 5,000 households, will be sent to 15 South Korean companies in the Gaesong Industrial Complex. Electricity aid asked for by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il from South Korea’s then President Kim Dae-jung at the 2000 summit between two countries, will finally be on its way after five years.

Unfortunately, the electricity will not be available to North Korean residents and companies. Electricity between the two countries may have been connected again, but it is like it has connected only half way. For example, passionate love between man and woman starts when they share their hearts beyond ordinary meetings. One wonders when the two countries will be able to see their sparkling moment in their stalled relationship, just like reconnected electricity.

Lim Gyu-jin, Editorial writer, mhjh22@donga.com