The North Korean Energy Picture – Potential & Reality

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North Korea’s energy picture offers a striking contrast between abundant resources and chronic energy shortfalls that have created bottlenecks throughout the economy. These obstacles have even affected the all important military sector. Pyongyang has tried short term fixes to deal with energy related difficulties via its neighbors Russia and China but for the most part these efforts have either exacerbated existing problems or created new ones.

Cutting across classical standards of analysis, North Korean energy insecurities are not straightforward problems and cannot easily be classified as either economic or political-military. Opaque and impenetrable to outsiders, North Korea’s painful combination of resource deficiency and a lack of geopolitical leverage to command access to deficient resources is especially hard for the United States to understand, given the abundant resources they have readily at hand and the political-military leverage they possess to acquire the resources they lack. As the information revolution expands worldwide, in both civilian and military dimensions, and as industrial facilities become more and more technology intensive, the quality of electric power becomes more important to the DPRK in all aspects of economic and military life. North Korea is beginning to discover that it cannot run on their erratic power supply with which Pyongyang, and its provincial towns are presently afflicted.”

Recommended Reading: “Energy Security in North Korea: From Defiance to Survival,” Foreign Policy Association,

About the speaker:

Patricia Schouker is an energy analyst based in Washington DC and an Associate Member of New College at Oxford University. She has extensive experience in global energy market studies, energy security and political risk with special focus on Europe, the United States and Russia. Patricia was recently selected as one of the top 40 most influential individuals in the energy sector by Right Relevance Inc, in San Francisco California. Patricia previously worked at Le Figaro Newspaper in Paris and was a parliamentary assistant and attaché at The French National Assembly. While working for a petrochemical company, she wrote her thesis on U.S Foreign Policy towards Terrorism after 9/11 focusing on the War in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a member of Chatham House, she has led several research projects in the areas of energy security and emerging threats in critical energy infrastructure as well as policy and risk assessment of European and Russian oil and gas systems. She has collaborated with various academic institutions, think tanks and embassies on European energy market, the geopolitics of energy and investment patterns. She has published for Pipeline Oil and Gas Magazine in Dubai, The National Interest, Oxford Politics and International Relations Departments as well as the Foreign Policy Association in NY. She is a frequent contributor to international media on energy security and international economic issues. Patricia holds a Master Degree from the Institute of World Politics in Washington D.C. She studied law and international relations in Paris, London,Geneva and completed a course certificate on sustainability and environmental management at Harvard University.


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