Although North Korean television coverage of the Olympic Games has reportedly been extended to five hours a day, many North Koreans are unable to watch the London Olympics because of electricity shortages, according to inside sources.
North Korea is currently ranked 5th in the world Olympic medal count with four gold medals in weightlifting and judo. The gold medal achievements of North Korean judoka An Kum-ae and weightlifters Om Yun-chol and Kim Un-kuk led North Korea to extend the length of its Olympic broadcast, said Ri Kwang-chol, head of the North Korean Radio and Television Broadcasting Committee press delegation. Originally, North Korea was only broadcasting 15 minutes of Olympic updates as a part of the 8pm evening news.
Ri Kwang-chol is one of six North Korean reporters who are currently in London covering North Korean team’s performance in the Olympic games. Ri told the president of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), the organization that granted helped North Korea secure the rights to broadcast the games, that "people back home are excited about our athletes' great performances.'
People in Pyongyang are also watching South Korean athletes compete, Ri said. Defectors say that it is very uncommon for North Korean officials to approve of citizens watching events in which South Korean athletes win gold medals. North Korean authorities have never allowed this in the past.
North Korean television broadcasts usually end by 11pm on normal days, defectors told Daily NK. Therefore, Olympic coverage in North Korea is not live, but recorded and shown during the day.
However, due to the lack of electricity in NK, only a small percentage of the population is actually able to watch the Olympics. Central Pyongyang only receives a limited number of hours of electricity per day causing the quality of the broadcast to be very poor. And regions of North Korea outside of Pyongyang cannot view the recorded broadcast of Olympics at all.
Inside sources say that people who live in the area near the North Korea-Chinese border are able to view the Olympics using the limited amount of electricity that the North Korean officials send to the factories and enterprises located there. But this electricity is very unstable. People in this border region can also sometimes catch the broadcast wave from China enabling them to watch the Olympic broadcast at night.
Nevertheless, North Korea’s KRT has the rights to broadcast more than 200 hours of the London Olympics of whatever events they choose, as was negotiated in a meeting in Pyongyang on the 26th of last month with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasters Union. Moreover, North Korea not only received permission to televise the London Olympics, but also the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, 2014 Brazil World Cup, and the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.