Since coming to power, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has emphasized the need to protect the country’s forests and conduct reforestation activities. During a recent visit to a tree nursery that had been built as a test site, Kim called on the government to expand the “battle” to restore the country’s forests, report sources in the country.
“There was a lecture for forest management and tree nursery management officials this spring,” said a North Hamgyong Province-based source on July 18. “The lecture was aimed at educating officials about the Party’s orders to bring the successes of the tree nursery in Sinuiju to the entire nation.”
The Sinuiju tree nursery began construction two years ago following an order by Kim, the source reported. Sinuiju residents were mobilized for the construction, which finished in May this year.
Seeds of pine and Manchurian larch trees, which tend to grow well at high altitudes, were planted near the nursery. The government put up posters around the nursery calling on residents to “work harder for the motherland.”
The authorities have given the task of replicating the success of the Sinuiju tree nursery to officials focused on reforestation and forest protection.
“After attending the lecture, the officials were unable to conduct the task in line with the Party’s orders so they had to find areas where grains had been planted instead of tree seedlings and fertilize the soil in a hurry,” said a separate source in North Hamgyong Province.
“They have combined forces with other officials in the province to build the nursery sites.”
Following the Sinuiju tree nursery being designated as a “model site,” nursery construction and reforestation efforts hoping to emulate the Sinuiju site’s successes are expanding throughout the country.
However, the extent of North Korea’s deforestation is so severe that some have expressed deep reservations about the chances for success.
“There is a step-by-step process that is being taken to build tree nurseries but there are many difficulties,” the additional source said, adding that “people are depressed when they look at the completely bare mountains and wonder when they will have trees again.”
According to a report on North Korea’s forests by South Korea’s Ministry of Unification in May, 2,840,000 hectares, or 32%, of a total of 8,990,000 hectares of forest area have been destroyed, and the country ranks as the third most deforested country in the world.
Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, has shown significant interest in reforestation according to sources in the country.
Addressing Party, military and economic officials in 2015, Kim said in a speech entitled, “All parts of the Party and military apparatus and the entire people should participate in the battle to restore our forests to what they once were,” that “it is the firm decision and intention of the Party to turn all of our mountains into mountains of jewels and gold with great, green forests.”
The regime has also been undertaking efforts to create organizations for the study of forests. Last year, Kim ordered the establishment of a forestry department at Kim Il Sung University, and in April this year construction began on a forest research institute in Taesongsan.