Afforestation Jobs ‘Kill Two Birds with One Stone’

In time for spring, North Korea is stepping
up its reforestation efforts and an increasing number of people are signing up
to contribute to the cause. The attraction of the job, which requires workers
to live deep in the mountains, is that people are allowed to freely cultivate
produce on personal plots. 

“The emphasis on reforestation means that the role of forest worker, not a
particularly well-known job in the past, is becoming more popular,” a source
based in Yangkang Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “Party cadres commend residents
who sign up for the effort, saying that they are ‘wise to follow the Party’s
policy direction.”

Rumors, predicated on the notion that involvement with sectors promoted by the Party will lead to better opportunities, have also spurred much of the movement among residents to join the cause–especially considering the emphasis Kim Jong Eun has placed on reforestation. “Unlike in the past, the state is
approving applications from farmers and miners to change their occupations,”
he said, explaining why many feel these rumors are far from unfounded.

“The state usually likes to promote people who have ventured into difficult areas or taken on hard work through state-run media nationwide, encouraging others to follow in their footsteps,” he went on. “People are also thinking that if they volunteer to go work in the forest by saying they would like to dedicate their lives to the Marshal–for whom reforestation is such an allegedly important issue–they’ll surely be seen as patriotic.” 

He also cited the example of a young couple hailing from the Chongjin University of Mining and Metallurgy, who left their jobs at a research
center to join this campaign. This is unsurprising, according to the source, who said that of the pool of applicants, a large number come from mining backgrounds.

The additional benefits for residents joining the cause are self-evident. “Forest workers can freely cultivate fields
without constant state monitoring; others who gather firewood are subject to
crackdowns, but these afforestation workers are exempt from such consequences,
free to do what they choose—even using solid wood (used in construction) to stoke their
hearths,” he explained.

Following the state’s drive for
reforestation, residents have been under tighter control regarding cultivation
of individual plots or small patches of land; tilling land near mountains is
strictly forbidden—unless one is an official worker with the afforestation

Leader Kim Jong Eun underscored reforestation last November during a visit to Pyongyang’s Central Tree Nursery. State-media reported that while there he declared, “During the Arduous March [North Korea’s famine of the mid-1990s] and hard times we lost many of
our forest resources, so the degree of deforestation is severe.” He followed by describing restoration efforts as a “war against nature,” calling on the entire nation–from the Party to ordinary residents–to “fight in this battle.”