Seoul Begins Large-Scale Power Supply to NK

Korea Times
Ryu Jin

South Korea began large-scale supply of electricity to the inter-Korean industrial park in North Korea’s border town of Gaeseong, Thursday, opening the way for power transmission through high-voltage cables between the two sides for the first time in about six decades.

Power distribution to the industrial complex has so far been carried out through pylons for more than two years, but now it will be distributed by a transformer substation.

South Korea’s state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said it has completed the construction of the Pyeonghwa (peace) Substation in Gaeseong to provide factories in the first-phase, 3.3-million-square-meter site of the joint industrial complex with ample electricity.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, the newly built substation receives 100,000 kilowatts of electricity — enough to serve up to 30,000 households — from the South via 154-kilovolt transmission cables that cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Since March 2005, KEPCO provided the industrial complex with 15,000 kilowatts of electricity through 22.9-kilovolt power lines. But, in late 2004, the two Koreas agreed on the larger-scale power supply for the industrial park.

Construction of the substation and erecting the 48 pylons that carry the power lines for 16 kilometers across the DMZ began in April last year with a budget of 35 billion won ($37.7 million).

Currently, 23 South Korean companies — mostly small- and medium-sized enterprises — operate in the complex, located some 60 kilometers northwest of Seoul, with an additional 16 preparing to start operations.

Officials managing the joint industrial park hope to lure up to 300 South Korean firms and possibly some foreign companies once the first phase of construction is completed later this year.

“Coming just after the reconnection of the railroads last month, the reconnection of the power transmission line between the two Koreas has a historic meaning linking the blood vessels of the two sides,’’ said Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Kim Young-ju in a ceremony.

In May 1948, North Korea unilaterally cut off power to the South, which consumed an average 103,000 kilowatts of electricity a month before the suspension. Two years later, the Korean War (1950-53) broke out and most links between the two Koreas remained severed until the late 1990s.

Exchanges and cooperation between the two sides, including various cross-border economic projects such as the Gaeseong industrial park and Mt. Geumgang tourism projects, have expanded drastically since the first-ever inter-Korean summit in June 2000.

Deputy Energy Minister Ahn Chul-shik said the electricity will be used only in the industrial complex and that any outside use will be contingent upon separate arrangements between Seoul and Pyongyang.

North Korea has the capacity to generate up to 7 million kilowatts of electricity, according to KEPCO, but the poverty-stricken Stalinist state only produces around 2 million kilowatts due to a lack of fuel and dilapidated infrastructure.

South Korea has the capacity for 67.5 million kilowatts and produces up to 61.5 million kilowatts during peak summer months, according to the ministry and the state-run electric power corporation.


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