The sky fades to black. No, it’s not some cheesy opening line to a play, but the truth each night for a nation of approximately 23 million people. This unbelievable NASA satellite image shows the almost complete darkness that envelopes North Korea each night.
The contrast from neighboring South Korea is dramatic, to say the least. It’s even still surprising when North Korea is compared to the fishing boats floating in the Yellow Sea (inset on the picture above).
Here are some stats from NASA’s Earth Observatory:
“City lights at night are a fairly reliable indicator of where people live. But this isn’t always the case, and the Korean Peninsula shows why. As of July 2012, South Korea’s population was estimated at roughly 49 million people, and North Korea’s population was estimated at about half that number. But where South Korea is gleaming with city lights, North Korea has hardly any lights at all—just a faint glimmer around Pyongyang.”
“Worldwide, South Korea ranks 12th in electricity production, and 10th in electricity consumption, per 2011 estimates. North Korea ranks 71st in electricity production, and 73rd in electricity consumption, per 2009 estimates.”
Atlantic Cities quotes Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,
“Back in the 1990s, the United States offered to help North Korea with its energy needs if it gave up its nuclear weapons program. But the deal fell apart after the Bush administration accused the North Koreans of reneging on their promises. North Koreans complain bitterly about the darkness, which they still blame on the U.S. sanctions. They can’t read at night. They can’t watch television. “We have no culture without electricity,” a burly North Korean security guard once told me accusingly.”
In an excerpt from her book, Demick goes on to point out the only possible upside to such complete darkness:
“But the dark has advantages of its own. Especially if you are a teenager dating somebody you can’t be seen with. When adults go to bed, sometimes as early as 7:00 pm in winter, it is easy enough to slip out of the house. The darkness confers measures of privacy and freedom as hard to come by in North Korea as electricity. Wrapped in a magic cloak of invisibility, you can do what you like without worrying about the prying eyes of parents, neighbors, or secret police.”
In our modern age, such darkness is truly hard to fathom.