According to Arirang News:
Forests in North Korea are disappearing at an alarmingly rapid pace, according to a new report.
Maplecroft, a UK-based risk analysis firm, said Thursday that among 180 countries surveyed, North Korea had the third highest deforestation rate trailing only Nigeria and Indonesia, respectively.
The United Nations estimates that, as of the end of 2008, North Korea had lost almost one-third of its entire forest mass.
Environmental specialists blame the country’s rampant deforestation on terraced farming and indiscriminate chopping for firewood.
Maplecroft has strongly urged North Korea, Nigeria, and Indonesia to better protect their forests and start planting trees.
Deforestation is estimated to contribute up to 20 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.
The Donga Ilbo also reported on the findings:
Maplecroft, a U.K.-based risk consulting company, announced that deforestation in North Korea was the third worst in the world after Nigeria and Indonesia. By contrast, the U.N. rated South Korea’s forestation as the only successful case after World War II. Park Jong-hwa, a professor of environmental studies at Seoul National University, said that judging from NASA`s satellite images, 13,878 square kilometers or 11.3 percent of North Korean territory comprised deforested mountains. In seasons when all of South Korea is green with foliage, the North`s land in satellite images are spotted with brown dirt land. The Korea Forest Service of South Korea estimates that reforesting North Korea will require 4.9 billion trees.
Many North Korean defectors who fled the North on boats say they felt relieved to know that they had arrived in the South upon seeing coastal mountains with dense forests. Looking northward from an observatory on Mount Odu near the Demilitarized Zone, one will see North Korean mountains all bare. The North’s deforestation is caused by wanton reclamation of land and logging due to poverty. Hungry North Korean residents dig up mountain foothills to make cultivation fields for food and even cut young trees for use as firewood in winter. Deforestation causes frequent flooding and droughts as shown by severe flood damage in North Korea.
Here is also a great paper that was published last year on deforestation in the DPRK: Forest degradation deepens around and within protected areas in East Asia