Why Does North Korea Have No Lights At Night


North Korea is well-known for its nighttime darkness. Despite being one of the most heavily populated countries in the world, North Korea is far from being bright at night. There are several explanations for why North Korea does not have much light pollution- a limited electricity network and overall lack of develop income to fire its night sky. Moreover, Pyongyang city is often visible during nighttime due to its military presence.

Limited Electricity Network in North Korea

According to reports, the electricity shortages in North Korea have become so severe that many areas of the country are completely dark at night. This is attributed to the fact that the country’s electricity network is limited. Electricity is generated mostly from burning oil or coal, which is expensive. This affects the country’s already low annual energy expenditure. In 2016, the total energy production in North Korea was estimated to be around 24.1 billion kWh- far lower than the intake of 633.1 billion kWh of the South Korean economy.

Furthermore, North Korea has undertaken some significant efforts to improve its electricity grid and reduce the number of outages. For instance, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the project of a new power plants at Kangwon and South Hamgyeong Provinces back in 2019.

Lack of Economic Development

North Korea also suffers from a lack of economic development and income. Reports from the World Bank show that the country’s average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is around $1000. This implies that despite the population’s tremendous efforts, the government failed to ensure proper economic growth.

Moreover, the number of salaries and salaries given to the people of North Korea show an even wider gap between the developed and underdeveloped countries. According to estimates, factory workers in North Korea make around $50 a month and most North Koreans live in poverty, struggling to survive without the basic essentials.

Furthermore, although the government has recently taken some measures to reduce the gap between North and South Korea, such as opening up trade relations and allowing foreign investments, most of these efforts have fallen short.

Military Presence

The presence of military forces in the capital city, Pyongyang, creates an unusual situation. The city is well-lit during the night due to the military presence and their need for light to acquire strategic superiority during the night. While this might bring a few rays of hope to Pyongyang’s residents, these lights cannot reach the far corners of North Korea due to the country’s sparse population.

Also, Pyongyang is the only city in North Korea that is lit at night as, despite the military’s presence, there is still a limited electric supply. This further attests to the limited electricity network, as well as the lack of economic development in the country.

Environmental Consequences of Reduced Light Pollution

A lack of artificial light in North Korea has enabled human observation of the night sky. Reports from scientists suggest that the stars in North Korean skies are brighter than the stars in the South- this shows a great deal of clarity. In fact, according to the World Atlas of Natural Darkness, North Korea is one of the least developed countries regarding light pollution, with a very low-light index rating of 0.22.

This means that the night sky in North Korea is remarkably clear, presenting a great opportunity to appreciate the heavens. This lack of light pollution also favors energy efficiency, reducing energy expenses and carbon emissions, while also saving money. Moreover, studies have indicated that decreased light pollution may have positive influence on other species, such as the red-crowned crane, which may benefit from this improved night habitat.

Global Criticism

In spite of the potential benefits of reduced light pollution in North Korea, global criticism for its massive power outages and nighttime darkness remains strong. For instance, after a nationwide blackout in 2017, Amnesty International accused the North Korean government of depriving its citizens of any access to electricity for up to 22 hours a day- even in Pyongyang.

Moreover, the Human Rights Watch has criticized the fact that around 25 percent of North Koreans spend nights without electricity and their scarce electric supply is diverted to military projects. Despite Kim Jong Un’s efforts in improving citizens’ access to electricity and creating a positive development plan, the accuracy of these claims remains questionable.

Solutions For North Korea’s Night Lights

In order to address the issue of low light in North Korea, multiple global organizations have proposed solutions. One of most relevant is the United Nations Development Programme, which proposed a three-pronged approach to the issue. This includes: the use of solar-powered electricity generation, the introduction of low-energy technologies, such as LED lighting, and support for energy efficiency measures. All of these measures are of particular importance for North Korea, as they may help in reducing energy expenditure and increasing electricity grid’s reliability.

Furthermore, some North Korean refugees living in South Korea who are familiar with the country’s technology and electric grid, have offered their services and expertise in order to improve the power supply in the North. However, their requests remain unanswered, as North Korean officials are reluctant to engage with non-governmental organizations.


In conclusion, North Korea does not have much light at night due to limited electricity system, lack of economic development, and the military presence in Pyongyang. Moreover, lack of light pollution in the country offers a unique opportunity to observe the night sky, while also supporting energy efficiency. Nonetheless, many global organizations have criticized the government’s policy on electricity and some have proposed solutions in order to improve electricity grid’s reliability.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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