More foreign diplomats who have not left North Korea amid the coronavirus pandemic are confirming shortages and infrastructure problems in the isolated country. File Photo by Yonhap News Service/UPI
Feb. 10 (UPI) -- An official with the Embassy of Czech Republic said power shortages in North Korea is a serious problem and confirmed previous reports of food shortages in Pyongyang, according to a recent press report.
Radio Free Asia's Korean service reported an official with the Czech Embassy, who was not identified, said news of shortages of daily necessities are "completely true," after Russian Ambassador Alexander Matsegora told Interfax life is "not easy" for foreign diplomats in the North Korean capital.
According to RFA's source, items that are difficult to purchase include food. Sugar and cooking oil are in scarce supply, as are desirable items including chocolate, coffee and snacks. Toothpaste, a luxury item by North Korean standards, also is unavailable, the source said.
North Korea has promoted domestically manufactured consumer goods in state media, but according to the source, North Korea's substitutes for previously imported products are of extremely poor quality, the report said.
Fruits and vegetables sold at Tongil Market, the largest marketplace in Pyongyang, are more expensive than last year. A small jar of instant coffee costs $30, bottles of shampoo and shower gel each cost about $50. Whiskey made in China sells for $10, the source said.
The Kim Jong Un regime is known for persistent power shortages and rolling blackouts. RFA's source said a recent assessment from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that estimates 26% of North Koreans have electricity was not inaccurate, according to the report. The source said there have also been several blackouts of the embassy's power grid in recent years.
The updated CIA World Factbook stated Saturday that North Korea's population is affected by disparities in access to power. In cities, about 36% of people have electricity, but in rural areas the coverage is lower, or 11%, the agency said.