Another year, another misguided attempt at reforestation

North Korea has been
pushing forward with reforestation efforts in an attempt to produce visible
achievements ahead of the 7th Party Congress in May, but those who have been
mobilized for the labor-intensive projects are complaining profusely, realizing
that the campaign will fail to produce the expected results.

“On Arbor Day (March 2), the grounds still
hadn’t thawed from the winter cold, so no matter how hard you try, the trees
aren’t able to secure their roots,” a source from North Hamgyong Province told
Daily NK on Wednesday. “There’s not enough manpower to dig through the frozen
ground, and the tree and forest management offices are all for show. So from
the initial planting stage, we’re unable to find healthy saplings to plant.”

Sources in Ryanggang Province and South
Hamgyong Province corroborated this news.

“On top of that, those from above are
pushing the citizenry to plant tens of thousands of trees in time for the
‘70-Day Battle’, so some people find tree segments without roots and just place
them in the soil, before reporting them as progress made,” he added. “You can
even see people who don’t have the money to buy these saplings, going out at
night to uproot those planted elsewhere and transferring them to new areas that
have been designated for forestation that month.”

North Korea has for many years pushed for
reforestation in the spring with all-out campaigns, but the results have been
negligible so far, according to the source. This is because the majority of the
trees planted each year are unable to survive due to poor soil conditions and
problems with sapling health. Even those that manage to survive do not last
long in the absence of proper care.

Not only that, some people quietly cut down
the trees to use for firewood, while others uproot them to cultivate the corn
needed to feed their families, as many are planted on small mountain plots that
were previously used by individuals to grow produce.

A defector with three decades of experience
participating in reforestation campaigns in the North explained that such
efforts are destined to fail as long as people are struggling to resolve
fundamental necessities like securing enough food and fuel for heat.

“Outside of Pyongyang, people in the North
don’t use gas to heat their homes, so they’re out looking for coal or firewood.
Without enough coal in the rural areas, they have no choice but to go to the
mountains and chop down trees,” said the source, who declined to be identified,
adding that the situation is no different when the land needs to be cleared for

South Korea previously supported the
North’s reforestation efforts, the defector noted, adding that, “more than
100,000 trees were sent over during that time, but they probably all ended up
in cadres’ furnaces,” emphasizing how futile these campaigns are when more
pressing needs exist.

Questions or comments about this article? Contact us at