A new high resolution look at North Korea, where it is 'Earth Hour' every night


We’ve made fun in the past of the lack of basic electrical infrastructure in North Korea, comparing its light footprint from space with the anti human progress Earth Hour, and with good reason – It’s really a dark country in more ways than one.

This is from NASA 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.

On September 24, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of the Korean Peninsula. This imagery is from the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight.

Korea and the Yellow Sea

acquired September 24, 2012

The next image is also interesting.

Korea and the Yellow Sea

The top, wide-area image shows the Korean Peninsula, parts of China and Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea). The white inset box shows the lights of fishing boats in the Yellow Sea, and many of the boats appear to form a line, as if marking a watery boundary between nations.

acquired September 24, 2012 download large image (4 MB, JPEG, 4000×4000)
acquired September 24, 2012 download GeoTIFF file (11 MB, TIFF)
acquired September 24, 2012 download Google Earth file (KML)

Following the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War, per-capita income in South Korea rose to about 17 times the per-capital income level of North Korea, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 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.

Learn more about the VIIRS day-night band and nighttime imaging of Earth in our new feature story: Out of the Blue and Into the Black.

  1. References

  2. CIA World Factbook. (2012, November 13) North Korea. Accessed November 29, 2012.
  3. CIA World Factbook. (2012, November 14) South Korea. Accessed November 29, 2012.
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April 10, 2013 2:14 pm

OMG. HOW contrasting & also FASCINATING.
Thank You for that, MUCH Appreciated.

April 10, 2013 2:17 pm

This is what the whole world will look like once Agenda 21 in implemented.

April 10, 2013 2:24 pm

What is ‘Agenda 21’ please Jonathan?.

April 10, 2013 2:33 pm

That’s what sustainability is all about. And they have no cars, not even fridges! Wonder if they take Greens as immigrants.

April 10, 2013 2:36 pm

The lights are on, but nobody is at home!

Bryan A
April 10, 2013 2:38 pm

Agenda 21 is likely a proposal to raise energy prices by Heavily Carbon Taxing them into competition with higher cost and less reliable GREEN ENERGY then altogether eliminating CO2 producing energy sources until electricity cannot be produced for 21 of the 24 hours of each day but that won’t matter because 3 hours per day is all anyone will be able to afford.
The affordability factor comes from the 99%’ers that will be responsible for the complete worldwide redistribution of wealth such that everyone is as rich as the lowest 5% WORLD WIDE (hey we may ALL be poor but we are ALL equal in our destituteness)

R. Craigen
April 10, 2013 2:41 pm

This would look so much better for N. Korea if the image happened to be taken at the moment of a nuclear test. Or a nuclear accident, which is becoming more likely by the day…

April 10, 2013 2:51 pm

Wrong Anthony.
Earth Hour is that shiny bit at the middllower mid of the first picture.

April 10, 2013 2:52 pm

typo… mid lower

April 10, 2013 3:00 pm

It is all a cunning strategic plan, hard to bomb a nation back to the stone-age when they are already there.

April 10, 2013 3:13 pm

TrendyH, google ‘Agenda 21’. It is a UN initiative whose essential point is to institute a system of indoctrination in schools around the world where ALL curricula (Math, English, Socials, PE) are dominated by dictated educational themes and content, “sustainability”, “Pluralism”, “social justice”, which as you (surely) know are, in the minds of many, nice words, but in the hands of these social engineers are convenient packages in which to articulate straight-up Marxist doctrine. Yes, it’s a UN-sanctioned worldwide initiative to propagandize children into Marxist ideology. You can find plenty of information of it, both reliable and hysterical, and make up your own mind.
Let’s assume this is new ot you and you are skeptical. After all, what responsible government would assent to implementing such a program in its schools? Well, I can list a number. Agenda 21 has been around for MANY years now, but is only just now gaining a good head of steam, and has many footsoldiers in North America, including in higher echelons of government. They have made far more progress than you might think.
To get an idea just how much, you needn’t look any further than the Mandate, Mission and Vision page of the Ministry of Education in my home province, Manitoba. Check out how the appropriate keywords have been inserted, here:
Pay particular attention to the 4 “overarching goals” and the 6 “priority action areas”.
It’s particularly enlightening to understand that the first version of the new mission did not include the only two actual EDUCATIONAL considerations, in action area 1. Apparently someone decided this looked bad, and added these in as an afterthought — see the original version here:
And this is not simply an on-paper piece of silliness. Anyone with kids in the system here can verify that this stuff has become up-front and center as part of the public school program. Check out this recent conference sponsored by the Ministry, attended by senior school staff, and at which the Minister herself spoke:
Check out the talk by Paul Betts here, and some of the other titles:
And this is only one of a series of such meeting happening here.
And Manitoba is no exception, by any means.
NK here we come…

April 10, 2013 3:13 pm

An environmentalists wet dream, this is center fold material for any environut.
Let’s hope the soda nazi doesn’t see this article.

Berényi Péter
April 10, 2013 3:19 pm

trendyhammer says:
April 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm
What is ‘Agenda 21′ please Jonathan?

I am not Jonathan, but Agenda 21 is the United Nations Environment Programme.

Peter Miller
April 10, 2013 3:22 pm

North Korea – alarmist heaven.
CO2 output per head amongst the lowest in the world, “the science/system is settled” and no dissent to the Team leaders’ great thoughts is allowed.

April 10, 2013 3:28 pm

So the fishing fleet is producing more light than North Korea…astounding

April 10, 2013 3:32 pm

Every cloud has a silver lining.
Kind of a paradise for the ‘garden telescope’ astronomers.

April 10, 2013 3:42 pm

This is what Warmists want in a locality near you today. Many countries around the world suffer from severe electricity poverty. And what do middle class Warmists want for THEM? Use less coal or else. I am so angry. Al Gore uses a lot of electrictiy. So does Pachauri. So does the UK Prime Minister. So does Obama. So does……………………………… but the poor people of the Third World should use less!!!! Less of how much I ask you????? I will end my rant here (for now at least).

April 10, 2013 3:46 pm

Well, North Korea is mostly rugged mountainous territory, and we’re not going to see lights there. And their young leader subscribes to the idea of sharply reducing their carbon footprint in an Al Gorian way to save the planet from annihilation from warmer temperatures, so there’s just the minimum illumination as needed, like in Pyongyang. … Just joking, lol. / / /
If it were true about North the Korean leader un being all in for radical carbon cutbacks, he’d be right in league with his possible military opposition in US Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command. Insane. Maybe NK’s un and Locklear should join forces and together do their little turn on the catwalk, if you know what I mean. http://newnostradamusofthenorth.blogspot.se/2013/04/admiral-locklear-head-of-us-pacific.html

April 10, 2013 3:52 pm

Let’s pray for the North Korean people. Surely light is good.

April 10, 2013 3:56 pm

Below are just a few comparisons between North Korea and South Korea:
Life expectancy:
North Korea – Men 65.6
South Korea – 79.3
I was going to carry on with a similar comparison but then I found out friends at the Guardian did it all for me. It does not make good reading at all. If you are a communist DO NOT read the following link.
Further references:

April 10, 2013 4:02 pm

Anthony / Mods,
Maybe it’s my browser or something else but my comments are no longer awaiting moderation. Delete this if you want as it’s just something I noticed.
REPLY: Welcome to phase 1 of the new WUWT, see main page – Anthony

April 10, 2013 4:06 pm

To RC – Thank You for your reply. MUCH Appreciated. 🙂

April 10, 2013 4:08 pm

The nighttime view of North Korea is exactly what the warmists would like the rest of the world to look like. Of course, the area where the power is on is where they and the political elites plan to live in comfort while they govern everyone else who manages to survive in their dark and dreary utopia.

April 10, 2013 4:31 pm

I wonder if the DPRK suffers from any bias in temp recording given that waste heat and UHI would be next to non-existent. It’s pretty much unchanged in 60 years. Watermelons may like to see what the world would be like under their agenda if it was imposed on us in the future, but they may not like the data that today destroys their argument for it.

April 10, 2013 4:32 pm

Black is the new green. The warmunists want us all living like the Chosen ones.

James Abbott
April 10, 2013 4:34 pm

So light pollution and wasted energy are a good thing ?
Why is the ability of satellites in orbit to measure upward light levels a sign of progress ?
Its a sign of waste.
North Korea is a crass example irrelevant to the debate.
Ok some upward light to space is from reflection, but a lot is wasted light from badly designed lighting and lights left on for no functional reason.
Using good design and control its perfectly possible to have quality low energy lighting and minimise light pollution. Given that a lot of public lighting is paid for by taxpayers I would have thought that would be a good thing.
[Reply: Did you forget to add a “/sarc” tag? — mod.]

April 10, 2013 4:41 pm

NK is a model for all that the warmists want. Very little fossil fuel use, everyone except the the political elite are poor (share the wealth actually means everyone equally poor), and a carbon footprint to be proud of.
I think it would be a fine idea for everyone advocating for a return to the personal carbon footprint of the 1800’s to visit NK permanently. I’m sure that if they brought all their worldly possession with them, young Kim would let them stay.

April 10, 2013 4:43 pm

A low carbon economy is a third world economy. Thank goodness for fossil fuels, coal in particular (which has been expanding in use recently). Up yours Hansen.
Life expectancy in North Korea is lower than Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Warmists are like North Koreans. They will hang onto an ideology no matter what the contrary evidence. But at the end of the day they will lose because they are wrong. Sceptics did well to resist the cries of the pant wetters after the ‘hottest decade on the record’. Global warming hiatus after massive emissions of CO2.
January 2013 – Some North Korean parents resort to cannibalizing on their children due to food shortages.
Jokes aside, North Korea might one day make a mistake and land bombs on enemy home territory.

Robert of Ottawa
April 10, 2013 5:22 pm

But North Korea is leading the way forward for humanity. It is Red Green!

Robert of Ottawa
April 10, 2013 5:28 pm

James Abbott April 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm
Are you suggsting that NK is SO efficient in their energy use, that they avoid waste? That they have the same number of fishing boats out there in the China Sea, that do not show on the satellite because their magical black light enables them to see without wasting energy?
Abbot, you are an NK bot.

April 10, 2013 5:38 pm

Of course, the Greens will have palaces with lights, cars, SUVs and Gulfstream V aircraft so they can get out and preach to us schmucks.

April 10, 2013 5:45 pm

“1953 armistice ending the Korean War”
Sort of. There was no peace treaty.

April 10, 2013 6:31 pm

“The East is Red Dim.”

Bob Diaz
April 10, 2013 6:38 pm

One of the fun things to try is to go to GOOGLE Earth, zoom into the streets of Pyongyang, and try to find cars. Given that this is a major city in North Korea, one would expect to find lots of cars, BUT it’s not easy to find 100 cars. You have to do a lot of looking. Pick any other major city in the world and you can find lots of cars. Hate traffic, move to North Korea, where traffic is NEVER a problem. ;-))

Ken Andrews
April 10, 2013 7:05 pm

– Agenda 21 stands for “The Agenda for the 21st century”
– Put forth a UN “Earth Summit” in Rio in 1972
– Bush 41 signed the US as a supporter in 1992 w/o input from Congress
– Consists of 5 sections
– How many have heard of ICLEI – 1990 – “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives”
In addition to partnering with all of the UN’s Enviro groups it partners with such groups as:
– C 40 – “Cities Climatic Leadership Group” – partner with Clinton Climate Initiative
– Resilient Cities – NYC & Bloomberg major players in this org. – this was program behind
recent non-smoking, no salt, “healthier” directives
– World Mayors Council on Climate Change
– CCP – “Cities for Climate Protection”
– UCLG – “United Cities & Local Government”
– ICLEI – charged with implementing Agenda 21’s agenda – not a UN agency and it’s plan of action calls for
Circumventing the world’s national governments and going directly to the local Govts.- cities & counties
– 1200 cities are members – over 500 in US – over 200 in CA
– It charges that changing unsustainable patterns of consumption & production is essential requirement for sustainable development
– Aim is to “anchor” sustainability principles within all municipal decision-making
– Provides MGT tools for local Govt sustainability initiatives including budgeting
Software called ecoBUDGET ( includes SUS (sustainable) principles in preparing budgets),
TBL – Triple Bottom Line ( best practices SUS
SUS Inventory system
Melbourne Principles – a planning kit for Local Govts to use to ensure SUS is included in all planning processes.

April 10, 2013 7:38 pm

Fascinating image of the fishing boat lights, Anthony. This raises all kinds of questions – eg the distribution of fish in those waters. Have the Chinese fished out their side? Is this political aggression? I note that fishing vessels that are presumably South Korean are keeping a great distance away. Wow!

April 10, 2013 8:52 pm

trendyhammer says: “What is ‘Agenda 21′ please Jonathan?
Jonathan: Am I surprised that you do not know of Agenda 21? In short no I am not. See Agenda 21 has been a bit of a secret (Not) Well I mean they would like to keep it that way and cover up its implementation through other means. Agenda 21 is deep and far reaching, The Greens have tried their best to white- wash it. Just have a look at you local Council website and you will see it there. Here is mine:
“Cities for Climate Protection program
Find out about the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s participation in the Cities for Climate Protection Australia program, and our strategic plans for both corporate and community action.
The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a member of the Cities for Climate Protection™ (CCP) Australia program, an international program that assist local governments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.In Australia, the program is delivered by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives and the Australian Greenhouse Office (now part of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency).
The program is based around 5 Milestones:
1. Conduct an inventory and forecast for community and corporate (Council) greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Establish an emissions reduction goal.
3. Develop and adopt a Local Action Plan.
4. Implement the Local Action Plan.
5. Monitor and report on achievements.”
As as example for you this is typical Agenda 21, hiding through 1. The Council. 2.CCP. ICLEI, Dept of Climate Change and of course the UN and the IPCC. The whole lot is interconnected, but it gets a lot more complex and sinister than that.
See the Buzzwords above (about 20 of them), that is always the sign, they really can not help them selves. As this is they way they talk. Now of course it is in the schools. The brainwashing has been going on for some time. My son comes home with it.
Watch out for Agenda 21 Buzzwords you will see them every where , here are some “S’s”; “Scenic views and vistas, School to work Sensitive Lands, Smart growth,Smart Streets, Social justice Stack and Pack Housing ,Stakeholder, Sustainable Communities Initiative
Sustainable communities partnership,Sustainable communities strategies
Sustainable development,Sustainable Economic Development”: More Buzzwords http://nwri.org/2013/02/agenda-21-buzzwords/
Have a read of Rosa Koire: BEHIND THE GREEN MASK: U.N. Agenda 21

April 10, 2013 9:17 pm

No surprise that the shape of the peninsular is a bottleneck geographically, which is a prime candidate for political opportunists/criminals to impose self serving ideologies/policies. People can’t go north, people can’t go south. If you impose an ideology, even better, people can’t go anywhere.
Same as any crime syndicate targeting weak points of distribution in a system, points of entry, etc etc. I get the same sort of thing every time I go to a nightclub in 3rd world countries, you have to get past the taxi mafia, the door mafia, the bar mafia, etc etc to get anywhere. And don’t even mention the port down the road, have to bribe just to get a bunk on the ferry that I already have paid for with a valid ticket.
Who ever said geography doesn’t affect human culture?

April 10, 2013 11:59 pm

If I’m reading this chart right:comment image
That line of boat is on the China side of the China exclusive economic zone, but smack up against the Korea line. I.e. The Chinese are ‘fishing out’ the waters on the edge with Korea and back toward their shore. Oddly, not fishing out the N. Korean waters (that may already be fished out…)

April 11, 2013 2:17 am

North Korean television (foreign propaganda broadcast, mainly). The kind of comedy you just don’t get on the Comedy Channel.
You know, where you laugh out loud at the absurd statement, then you suddenly realize that if you did that in North Korea you’d be mulched for fertilizer.
The only good news is that China seems to be tiring of their shenanigans. Not that freeing a people that badly brainwashed won’t be a gigantic task. Even assuming they survive their hostility toward everyone around them, it will probably be a couple of generations before they settle down.
Really one of the saddest places in the world today.

April 11, 2013 3:00 am

I think you raise an important issue when you write in your post at April 11, 2013 at 2:17 am.

The only good news is that China seems to be tiring of their shenanigans. Not that freeing a people that badly brainwashed won’t be a gigantic task. Even assuming they survive their hostility toward everyone around them, it will probably be a couple of generations before they settle down.

It will probably require much longer than “a couple of generations”.
You have raised the problem of understanding a culture from outside that culture. This problem is why governments spend so much money and effort in training their diplomatic and intelligence organisations. And it is why there is great risk in mentioning politics in a foreign country; one knows what one said and intended by what one said, but one does not know how that is heard and what it is understood to mean by the hearer.
For example of the power of a culture, consider the case of China which you mention.
China has been totalitarian for two thousand years during which time it has had several different governments operating several different political philosophies. There is no reason to suppose that replacement of China’s communist government with another form of government will stop China being totalitarian. And there is good reason to suppose it would not.
The Chinese people have been isolated within the Walls for thousands of years. They obeyed the Emperor (in whatever form the Emperor had) or they died. They had no other options because they were enclosed in the Walls (both real Walls or geographical distance) and could not ‘run’ to somewhere else. Hence, people learned ‘at their mother’s knee’ to obey the government without question or dissent. This learning is a cultural imperative which most people in China do not know they have.
Changing such a cultural imperative can be achieved. For example, in Japan following the Second World War. But it is not easy and requires destruction of cultural icons (which is e.g. why the Taliban destroy statues). A culture which has existed for thousands of years will probably take a long time to change.
Importantly, the people need to be given a desire to change their culture if a cultural imperative is to be displaced. And every culture has cultural imperatives. For example, Americans have ‘Respect For The Flag’, the English have the ‘English Disease’ which inhibits their retaining learning of other languages, etc..
Changing cultures can be rapidly achieved when the circumstances are right, and this is demonstrated by the Japanese experience following the Second World War. It seems likely that North Korea may reach such circumstances and obtain rapid cultural adjustment in decades to come.
But it is difficult to see a combination of circumstances short of thermonuclear war which would alter China’s ingrained culture of totalitarianism. Unless, of course, you know different.

Bloke down the pub
April 11, 2013 4:00 am

We could offer to make Pyongyang glow in the dark but I don’t think they would want to take us up on it.

Vince Causey
April 11, 2013 4:05 am

I thought the first image at the top of the page was the Scottish-English border region – they do look remarkable simliar. Maybe it’s prescient based on Scotlands determination to rely totally on wind power!

April 11, 2013 5:43 am

E.M.Smith says:
April 10, 2013 at 11:59 pm
If I’m reading this chart right:comment image
That line of boat is on the China side of the China exclusive economic zone, but smack up against the Korea line. I.e. The Chinese are ‘fishing out’ the waters on the edge with Korea and back toward their shore. Oddly, not fishing out the N. Korean waters (that may already be fished out…)

I noticed that as well. But thought of a different angle – how many are “fishing” and how many are waiting for a go from Kim jong Un. I doubt fish are so obedient as to observe territorial waters.

April 11, 2013 6:06 am

Vince Causey says:
April 11, 2013 at 4:05 am
I thought the first image at the top of the page was the Scottish-English border region – they do look remarkable simliar. Maybe it’s prescient based on Scotlands determination to rely totally on wind power!
For all Alex Salmond’s manifestly bad ideas, that’s not one of them; there’s no intention to have Scotland rely on wind power, only to farm the subsidies and sell the output into the National Grid.
Re. those fishing boats, I was reminded of trying to navigate a 500,000 tonne tanker through them as a very young officer – terrifying!

Lew Skannen
April 11, 2013 6:26 am

Pyongyang is the strangest place. Next to no traffic and on the trip from the airport to the centre we passed maybe six cars. At night the only lights seem to be individual lights in peoples houses shining out of windows. It is the only place where there is no neon, no advertising etc. All the stuff you see in the rest of the world just is not there. Looking out the window of my hotel all I could see was large black shadows of tower blocks with little square lighted windows and nothing else. It reminded me of the background of a stage play in which the designer had been in a bit of a hurry and shown little imagination. Just black oblong towers with little yellow squares. It looked fake and if it had been for a stage play you would have commented on how fake it looked.
Industrial production seemed to have halted and factories were being pulled apart and sold to China for scrap.
The green utopia.

April 11, 2013 7:50 pm

Pyongyang is an attractive and populous city. It’s my understanding what the satellite view records is a cultural norm – they indeed do not light up the night. The website ‘wandering camera’ contains a photo collection reflecting a visit there some years ago. Take a look, and be at least a little skeptical of how we most often characterize the city and N Korea generally.

April 11, 2013 8:34 pm

Altogether now – “How do you solve a problem like Korea”

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