Archive for the ‘Ministry of Forestry’ Category

South Korean officials in North Korea for joint forest inspection

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Yonhap reports:

A group of South Korean officials left for North Korea on Wednesday to conduct a joint inspection of forests and protect trees from harmful insects and diseases, the unification ministry said.

The officials led by a senior forest agency policymaker crossed into Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast, where they will jointly examine the forests there, according to the ministry.

They will return home later in the afternoon.

The one-day trip follows up on the agreement reached during working-level inter-Korean talks early last month for forestry cooperation.

They agreed to cooperate in protecting forests along the inter-Korean border and in other areas from damage caused by harmful insects and diseases.

The two Koreas conducted a similar on-site inspection in July 2015 near Mount Kumgang. Two months later, they carried out efforts to fight insects and other damage, which was said to have cost them over 100 million won (US$89,400).

Meanwhile, the North will send six transport officials to the South on Thursday to hold a meeting and discuss details related to their cooperation in modernizing and possibly connecting railways over their border, the ministry said.

The meeting, the second of its kind, will be held at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) office in Paju, just south of the inter-Korean border.

It came after their first meeting in Kaesong last month to discuss the outcome of an inspection of the conditions of the 15.3 kilometer-long railways from the North’s border town to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that separates the two Koreas.

Article source:
S. Korean officials visit N. Korea for joint inspection of forests
Yonhap News
2018-08-08

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North Korean reforestation in practice

Friday, April 8th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

On this blog, we’ve often written about forestry issues in North Korea. It’s a particularly interesting area from an economic point of view, because it embodies many of the fundamental problems with central planning in North Korea. DailyNK reports on how these problems continue to show up in the current reforestation campaign:

“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.”

(See this post for some pictures from the Russian embassy’s activities on Arbor Day).

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 crops.

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.

If the central government orders that trees must be planted, they must be planted, no matter the conditions on the ground. The problem, of course, is much deeper than just a lack of tree plantation efforts. As long as North Korea’s structural energy and food problems aren’t alleviated, campaigns like this one are bound to have little success in the long run.

Full article here:
Another year, another misguided attempt at reforestation
Kim Ga Young
DailyNK 
2016-04-07

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Why won’t North Korean trees grow like Kim Jong-un told them to?

Friday, September 4th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The forestry campaign that Kim Jong-un launched in a speech earlier this year continues. According to a new brief by IFES, North Korean state media has criticized certain nurseries for poor management.

North Korea has once again come out on broadcast television criticizing the poor management of tree nurseries at some of its Forest Management Centers. This public criticism of the forest restoration effort comes after the emergence of Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yeo Jong, as an influential figure in the Department of Propaganda and Agitation.

On August 26, 2015, Korean Central Television (KCTV) aired a program entitled, Let’s Go Forward in Patriotism and Strength in the Forest Restoration Battle. The broadcast criticized several Forest Management Centers, including one in North Hwanghae Province’s Songnim. “They set up sun shades carelessly and then do not even water saplings properly. As a result saplings have become withered and yellow,” the program alleged.

The broadcast went on to a scathing critique of the tree nursery’s poor management: “The spraying equipment also does not properly work […] No more than 30% of the trees are alive […] The soil is overgrown with weeds […] One of the trees still has not sprouted.”

It also condemned the management of the Kangdong County tree nursery. “Because they do not properly conduct fertilizer management and also do not follow water guarantee measures, the saplings turn yellow and wither away. In the vegetable gardens there is so much seaweed that it is difficult to tell whether they are fields of saplings or meadows.”

“The fact that saplings can not grow properly is not due to unfavorable climate conditions but the defeatist and ‘non-owner’ work attitudes of the Forest Management Center workers and tree nursery work groups, who half-heartedly do their work and quit,” the broadcast added.

It went on to say, “When the workers use their heads creatively and engage in the work enterprisingly, great results are achieved in the expansion of the country’s permanent assets […] If all combatants in the forest restoration work sincerely, the Party’s forest restoration plans will be moved forward.”

One could of course argue that the issues described might result from the disconnect between political orders and constraints on the ground. For example, it has been reported that tree species that would suit local conditions in certain parts of the country would take at least three years to produce, but that the central government authorities want things to proceed immediately anyway. I am no forestry expert but it seems like a difficult task for even the most stern of political orders to make trees grow properly in the wrong conditions.

The full text of the IFES brief is available here:

North Korean Broadcast Criticizes Forest Restoration Results

The Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University

2015-09-03

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North Korean Broadcast Criticizes Forest Restoration Results

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-9-3

North Korea has once again come out on broadcast television criticizing the poor management of tree nurseries at some of its Forest Management Centers. This public criticism of the forest restoration effort comes after the emergence of Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yeo Jong, as an influential figure in the Department of Propaganda and Agitation.

On August 26, 2015, Korean Central Television (KCTV) aired a program entitled, Let’s Go Forward in Patriotism and Strength in the Forest Restoration Battle. The broadcast criticized several Forest Management Centers, including one in North Hwanghae Province’s Songnim. “They set up sun shades carelessly and then do not even water saplings properly. As a result saplings have become withered and yellow,” the program alleged.

The broadcast went on to a scathing critique of the tree nursery’s poor management: “The spraying equipment also does not properly work […] No more than 30% of the trees are alive […] The soil is overgrown with weeds […] One of the trees still has not sprouted.”

It also condemned the management of the Kangdong County tree nursery. “Because they do not properly conduct fertilizer management and also do not follow water guarantee measures, the saplings turn yellow and wither away. In the vegetable gardens there is so much seaweed that it is difficult to tell whether they are fields of saplings or meadows.”

“The fact that saplings can not grow properly is not due to unfavorable climate conditions but the defeatist and ‘non-owner’ work attitudes of the Forest Management Center workers and tree nursery work groups, who half-heartedly do their work and quit,” the broadcast added.

It went on to say, “When the workers use their heads creatively and engage in the work enterprisingly, great results are achieved in the expansion of the country’s permanent assets […] If all combatants in the forest restoration work sincerely, the Party’s forest restoration plans will be moved forward.”

KCTV aired a similar broadcast on April 2015 called, Let’s Honor the Noble Wishes of the Party and Make the Whole Country a Primeval Forest. This broadcast said that the forest restoration work had run into some snags and berated people connected to the Forest Management Center.

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DPRK pushing forest restoration

Friday, April 10th, 2015

According to Radio Free Asia:

North Korea’s regime has increased the power of the country’s forest management departments to assist in a “greenification” scheme of the barren nation, but the campaign is facing setbacks as central authorities push ahead with planting unsuitable trees despite warnings from local officials, sources said.

Last year, authorities in North Korea launched a campaign of “nationwide greenification,” sources said, with the primary goal of planting trees to replenish soil nutrients and prevent erosion in the country, which has been ravaged by decades of environmental degradation.

As part of the campaign, authorities enlarged the size of state-run tree nurseries and fields for planting seedlings, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently announced that the public should “not lament the denudation of the forests, and organize trees species systematically and economically.”

The central government increased the size of each province’s forest management department, which had formerly been considered a hardship placement because of environmental neglect, and elevated its status to that of other state organs, a source from Yanggang province told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Provincial forest management departments have now become popular enough to compete against other organs of power,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Forest planning experts who had not been treated well before are now eligible as provincial committee members,” he said.

As part of the “greenification” campaign, the government significantly increased the supervisory power of the forest management departments, granting them control of tree nurseries and seedling production, sources said.

“This is because Kim Jong Un’s regime needs the agency to not only design forest restoration projects, but also determine how much land should be used, and even what species of trees should be planted on it,” the source said.

The forest management departments soon realized that existing plans, which relied on whatever saplings were available, had to be revamped to incorporate criteria such as species of tree, quality of soil and local climate into the planting process, a source from North Hamgyeong province told RFA.

Tree species requested by the forest management departments to suit their local conditions require at least three years to produce, the source said, but central authorities—eager to meet targets set as part of the “greenification” campaign—are demanding that the planting campaign proceed regardless.

“Even though it will take additional time, [local authorities] have to organize the forest scientifically and systematically, according to the requests of the forest management departments,” he said.

“There are lots of complaints to the forest organizing committees [under the forest management departments] pushing people to plant trees even though the correct species by region have not been produced.”

Barren landscape

According to the Seoul-based Korea Environment Institute, forest cover in North Korea dropped by 17 percent from the 1970s to the late 1990s.

Following the collapse in the early 1990s of the Soviet Union—which provided discounted oil to its communist ally—oil imports into North Korea dropped by more than half, while the use of firewood for heating more than doubled.

The Soviet Union had also provided fertilizer to the North, and when farmers were unable to produce enough food, forest area was cleared to make room for additional farmland.

Only 44.95 percent of North Korea was covered by forest in 2012, according to the World Bank, which says that the area has decreased every year since 2000, when 57.58 of the nation was forested.

Residents of the impoverished country routinely scavenge any organic material they can find for food, fuel or animal food, leaving little that contributes nutrients to the soil.

Without trees to hold the soil, rains frequently lead to flash floods and landslides in the country.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Pushes Ahead With ‘Greenification’ Despite Lack of Suitable Trees
Sung-hui Moon
Radio Free Asia
2015-04-10

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DPRK seeks advice on environmental improvement

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

According to the International Business Times (2012-4-3):

Last month, North Korea invited 14 scientists from eight different countries — five alone from the U.S. — to attend a conference with 75 North Korean scientists, and provide their expertise on restoring the country’s environment and securing domestic food supplies. Dr. Margaret Palmer, executive director of Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland and one of the scientists who appeared at the conference, recently spoke with the New York Times about her assessment of North Korea’s ecological crisis and its government’s capability to deal with it.

“It’s a depressing landscape, especially this time of year,” Palmer told the Times. “Everything is just mud and everything is being farmed, or attempted to be farmed. But their ability to produce food is being dramatically compromised by a cascade of effects caused by deforestation.”

North Korea’s environmental crisis started in the 1950s during the Korean War, which resulted in massive forest fires and widespread deforestation. The situation was exacerbated during the 1990s when droughts and floods destroyed crops and caused a major famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Recovering forests were raided by desperate villagers for food and fuel, many surviving by eating grass and tree bark.

Although the major environmental problems were clear to Palmer, she expressed doubts about the North Korean scientists’ approach to them.

“The presentations were almost exclusively about how to promote agriculture … It felt like [the North Korean scientists] had a sense of the direction of the scientific community in the rest of the world but that they lacked the technology and understanding to implement any of it,” Palmer said.

In contrast, Peter Raven, president emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, offered praise for North Korea’s efforts to reforest through planting crops alongside trees.

“They had a fine understanding of agroforestry principles and were applying them in a very understanding way to reforestation,” Raven told Science Magazine.

Norman Neuriter, director at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who selected the American experts for the conference, said the gathering was heavily monitored and restricted, and expressed disappointment with the limited communication between the advisory team and North Korean scientists.

“One would like to have had more individual interaction, one-on-one or two-on-two, but that wasn’t possible,” Neureiter told the Atlantic Wire.

“We weren’t allowed to talk informally with the scientists,” Palmer told the Times. “We were escorted to separate rooms during coffee breaks and there was no time to casually chat and ask questions.”

Despite the restrictive atmosphere of the conference, the scientists are hoping to move forward with environmental restoration projects, though it is not yet clear how political tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program will impact future collaboration efforts. It is clear that the government must mobilize quickly if it is to avoid another disaster like it experienced during the 1990s.

Further resources below:
1. Q. and A.: North Korea’s Choked Environment

2. Seeking Cures to North Korea’s Environmental Ills

3. The Environment Is So Bad in North Korea, They’ll Even Let Americans Help

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Some interesting recent publications and articles

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

1. “Relying on One’s Strength: The Growth of the Private Agriculture in Borderland Areas of North Korea”
Andrei Lankov,Seok Hyang Kim ,Inok Kwa
PDF of the article here 

The two decades which followed the collapse of the communist bloc were a period of dramatic social and economic transformation in North Korea. The 1990-2010 period was a time when market economy re-emerged in North Korea where once could be seen as the most perfect example of the Stalinist economic model. The present article deals with one of the major areas of socioeconomic change which, so far, has not been the focus of previous studies. The topic is about the growth of private agricultural activities in North Korea after 1990. This growth constitutes a significant phenomenon which has important social consequences and also is important from a purely economic point of view: it seems that the spontaneous growth of private plots played a major role in the recent improvement of the food situation inside North Korea.

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3. Korea Sharing Movement anti-malarial program (Via Cancor)
Read a PDF of on the project here

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4. What is it like to teach at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST)?
Find out from one instructor here. More on PUST here.

 

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North Korean logger detained in Russian east

Friday, March 19th, 2010

According to the Associated Press (via Los Angeles Times):

The North Korean’s note, scrawled in pen, was simple: “I want to go to South Korea. Why? To find freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom of life.”

The ex-logger, on the run from North Korean authorities, handed the note over to a South Korean missionary in the Russian city of Vladivostok last week in hopes it would lead to political asylum.

Just before he was to meet Thursday with the International Organization for Migrants, a team of men grabbed him, slapped handcuffs on him and drove off, rights activists in Moscow said Friday. He was spirited away to the eastern port city of Nakhokda, where he is sure to be handed back over to North Korean officials and repatriated to his communist homeland, activists said in Seoul.

Police in Vladivostok refused to comment. A senior South Korean diplomat in Vladivostok said he had no information. Officials from the U.S. consulate in Vladivostok could not be reached for comment.

The 51-year-old would be the third North Korean logger in Russia in a week to make a bid for asylum. On March 9, two other North Koreans who had fled their jobs as loggers managed to get into the South Korean consulate in Vladivostok.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported last week that two North Koreans climbed a fence, ran past the guards and entered the consulate, saying they wanted political asylum. ITAR-Tass carried a similar report.

The incidents focused attention on the precarious existence of tens of thousands of North Koreans sent by the impoverished regime to work in neighboring Russia.

Russian government figures from 2007 put the number of North Korean laborers at 32,600, most of them working in logging in the remote east.

The Rev. Peter Chung, a Seoul-based activist, said there are about 40,000 North Korean loggers in Russia, but that some 10,000 of them have fled their work sites. Some are finding work as day laborers while others are in hiding as they try to map out how to win asylum in foreign diplomatic missions.

The North Korean described the conditions as unbearable. His government took half his meager wages, while the North Korean company operating the logging camp took 35 percent. He kept just 15 percent — about $60 a month — an arrangement that rendered him “virtually a slave,” he told activists.

He eventually fled the logging camp, taking odd jobs to survive. He also became a Christian, Chung and Kim Hi-tae said, which could draw severe punishment, even execution, back home.

The successful asylum bid of two other former North Korean loggers inspired Kim to make a similar attempt, Chung said.

Previous posts on the North Korean loggers in Russia can be found hereMore here. And here. And here.

Read the full story below:
3rd North Korean logger attempts to defect in Russia, propelled by dream of ‘freedom of life’
Associated Press (via Los Angeles Times)
Kim Kwang Tae
3/19/2010

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Association No. 2 – North Korean loggers in Russia

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

tynda-bbc.JPG

The BBC ran an interesting video story on North Korean loggers felling trees in Russia.  Of course this has been going on for a long time. However, this is the first video footage of the logging facilities that has appeared in the Western media.

According to the video, North Korea’s logging concessions are managed by a company called “Association No. 2,” which is housed in a compound in northern Tynda, Russia.  According to the story, Association No. 2 receives 35% of proceeds of logging (appx $7m) some fraction of which is repatriated to the DPRK’s Ministry of Forestry.  Using the video, I located the Association No. 2 compound on Google Earth. Here is an image:

assn2.JPG

(Click on image for larger version.  You can see it in Google Maps here.)

Additional Notes:

1. I have not been able to locate the other North Korean logging camps in Russia.  If any readers can find them, please let me know.

2.  The DPRK appointed a new Minister of Forests last October.

3. Bertil Lintner on North Koreans working in Russia.

4. Andrei Lankov on the loggers.

5. Claudia Rosette on the loggers.

6. YouTube video on NKs in Russia.

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“Let’s plant more trees!”

Friday, March 6th, 2009

letsplantmoretrees.JPGAs regular Google Earth users are aware, the DPRK has experienced significant deforestation in recent decades from both private and state actors. The former have cleared land for fuel/heat and private food production. The latter have felled forests to export lumber. However, without private property rights over the lumber and corollary price signals, we have witnessed yet another “tragedy of the commons”–the over extraction of a common-pool resource. 

As can be seen in the image above, official reforestation campaigns have been launched several times.  According to Good Friends, the most recent was announced last September, shortly before the DPRK appointed a new forestry minister, Kim Kwang-yong.  According to the Yonhap article below, however, South Koreans and Europeans have been supporting reforestation projects in the DPRK for nearly ten years:

North Korean workers and students rolled up their sleeves Monday for Tree-planting Day, state-run media said, amid continuing aid from South Korea despite damaged political relations.

North Korea has a high deforestation rate, as residents have cut down trees for fuel. Deforestation is closely linked to the country’s chronic food shortages, as barren mountain slopes leave rice farms prone to severe flooding by summer monsoons, according to aid workers in Seoul.

The North Korean government has banned cutting trees and sought to make its country greener with aid from South Korea and some European governments.

“Covered with trees are mountains and fields of the country from the foot of Mount Paektu, the sacred mountain of the revolution, to the military demarcation line and from the eastern coast to the western coast,” the Korean Central News Agency said in an English-language report titled “Greening and Gardening Campaign Gets Brisk.”

“The tree-planting campaign is being briskly undertaken everywhere in the country … changing the appearance of the country beyond recognition day by day,” it said.

South Korean government and civic groups have been operating sapling fields in the North Korean cities of Kaesong and Pyongyang, as well as near the North’s scenic resort Mount Kumgang, providing seedlings, equipment and technology since 1999. The project has cost South Korea some 9 billion won (US$5.7 million), according to the Ministry of Unification.

Aid workers said the inter-Korean forestry project has continued even though Pyongyang cut off all government-level dialogue in response to Seoul’s hardline policy toward it that began last year.

Ahn Sun-kyong, an aid worker from Green One Korea, an umbrella group of over a dozen non-governmental organizations in Seoul, said it plans to build a seed preservation facility and an apple farm in Pyongyang as new projects this year.

“There may be certain limitations, but this non-governmental exchange project will continue,” Ahn said.

Hwang Jae-sung from the Korean Sharing Movement, which operates the Kaepung sapling field in Kaesong as a member of Green One Korea, said most trees are prematurely cut by residents, who also rake up fallen leaves for fuel.

“Deforestation is directly linked to the food problem,” Hwang, who last visited Kaesong in November, said. “We believe tree planting in North Korea is not only useful for preventing floods, but also can be another means of resolving the food shortages in the North.”

The aid groups say 16-18 percent of North Korean forests, or 1.5-1.6 million hectares out of the North’s 8.9 million hectares of forests, are believed to be deforested. About 80 percent of North Korea is covered by mountains.

Although the support offered by these groups is necessary to restore ecological health and productive power of the DPRK’s agricultural lands, an unfortunate consequence will likely be growing restrictions on private food production which will necessarily require the North Korean people to once again rely on the state for food distribution.

Read previous posts on forestry and environmental protection here.

Read the Yonhap story here:
N. Koreans work to make country green on Tree-planting Day: report
Yonhap
Kim Hyun
3/2/2009

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