Kim Jong Un at a tree planting event on Mar. 2, 2022. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

The North Korean government has designated the first and second week of March as tree-planting weeks and instructed various organizations to organize tree planting, Daily NK has learned.

“At the end of February, the government gave orders to name the first and second week of March as tree-planting weeks, coinciding with Arbor Day [held on Mar. 2 in North Korea], and for each people’s committee and party committee at the provincial, city and county level to organize tree planting,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Wednesday.

According to the source, the various committees have been instructed to prepare an ample supply of saplings leading up to Arbor Day and to begin planting trees in the hills on Mar. 1, with the work slated to continue for two weeks.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the North Korean government emphasized that the committees should strictly obey quarantine guidelines and monitor any violations to ensure that not a single person is infected during the tree planting.

Authorities also ordered that workers be trained in forest fire prevention before planting trees and that no one be allowed to take matches or lighters into the hills.

Last year, the source said, tree-planting activities were kept to a minimum because of the severe spread of COVID-19. But this year, middle school students from around the country have been mobilized to plant trees on the streets, in villages, near various the buildings of various organizations and businesses, and even at schools.

In connection with this, the North Korean authorities reportedly said that “we must be patriotic about planting trees and ensure that not a single tree is killed so that lush woods can grow in the next few years.”

“All organizations should not only plant saplings but also take good care of them in the areas for which they are responsible,” the authorities also said.

These tree-planting activities are directly linked to North Korea’s forest development policy. Indeed, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has taken a great interest in the issue of restoring the country’s depleted forests and emphasized a nationwide struggle that he has dubbed “the fight to restore the forests.”

Kim even encouraged tree planting by personally hefting a spade and planting two needle fir trees on Arbor Day this year.

But the cost of planting trees is left to ordinary North Koreans, who are expected to pay for the saplings out of pocket, the source explained.

“Those who have connections at tree nurseries can pick up a sapling for a couple packs of cigarettes; those who don’t have to fork over cash. Organizations, businesses, and schools are also supposed to source their own saplings to plant in designated areas. That work is then delegated to teams or departments at businesses and to groups of three to five at schools,” the source said.

As part of North Korea’s forest development policy, the authorities have even been forcing farmers to plant trees in privately cultivated fields, which has stirred up discontent among the populace.

“People are disgruntled that the government is ordering them to plant trees on land they’ve worked so hard to cultivate, and while they are not even getting government rations,” the source said.

“That sometimes leads to scuffles between farmers and forestry supervisors. The helpless farmers do everything in their power to keep the land from being stolen [for tree planting], but in the end their private fields are being filled with trees,” he added. 

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