Archive for the ‘Ministry of Forestry’ Category

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

Share

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.

______________________

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

______________________

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.

 

Share

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

Share

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.

Share

“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

Share

DPRK ministerial shakeup and SPA elections announced

Monday, January 5th, 2009

UPDATE 3: According to numerous media sources, Choe Sung Chol has been shot (h/t Marmot). Read more here: Bloomberg, Reuters, Korea Times.

UPDATE 2: According to the Joong Ang Daily:

North Korea’s point man on South Korea, who was earlier said to have been sacked for misjudgment, is said to be undergoing what sources called “severe” communist training at a chicken farm, sources here said yesterday.

Choe Sung-chol, once a vice chairman of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, the North’s state organization handling inter-Korean affairs, was reported to have been dismissed in early 2008 for what sources called his lack of foresight on South Korea’s new conservative administration under President Lee Myung-bak.

Political dissidents in North Korea are said to often undergo training on the communist revolution. This includes hard labor in harsh environments, such as mines or in labor camps.

Choe, 52, became better known to South Korean officials and the public in 2007, when he escorted then-President Roh Moo-hyun throughout his visit to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

He is also known to have played a key role in arranging the summit.

Officials in Seoul have acknowledged the dismissal of Choe, but could not confirm his whereabouts or why he was sacked.

“He has been undergoing training for about a year now, so it really is hard to tell whether he will be reinstated or not,” another source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

(UPDATE 1) Shortly after the DPRK’s ministerial and leadership changes were dscovered, the DPRK announced the Supreme People’s Assembly will be recomposed in March.  According to Reuters:

The reclusive North’s official media said in a two-sentence dispatch the election for deputies to its Supreme People’s Assembly would be held on March 8, without offering details.

North Korea wants to promote economic elite to the assembly to help lay the groundwork for the next generation of its leadership, a think tank affiliated with the South’s intelligence service said in a report in December, Yonhap news agency said.

However, analysts cautioned against reading too much into the leadership changes, saying Kim Jong-il and his inner circle hold the real power while ministers and other government officials have almost no influence in forming policy.

The assembly session that typically meets in April each year is a highly choreographed affair focused on budget matters where legislation is traditionally passed with unanimous approval.

North Koreans can vote only for the candidates selected by supreme leaders who allocate assembly seats to promote rank-and-file officials and purge those no longer in favor.

“Even if we know that someone was replaced, everything related to it is pure speculation because we have no clue as to the individual inclinations of these people,” said Andrei Lankov, an expert on the North at the South’s Kookmin University. (Reuters)

The Joong Ang Ilbo provides some additional facts:

The election is also a mere formality in the North because the candidates are hand-picked by the Workers’ Party and then approved by North leader Kim Jong-il.

The five-year terms of the 687 representatives, selected in 2003, were supposed to end last September. North Korea watchers have speculated that Kim’s health was linked to the election delay. According to intelligence sources in Seoul, Kim suffered a stroke in August.

North Korea watchers said Kim’s appearance at a polling station will put an end to speculation about his health. Kim had cast ballots in the 1998 and 2003 elections, according to past North Korean media reports.

With the upcoming election, Kim’s regime will enter its third term. The newly formed legislature will, on paper, form a cabinet, devise a national budget plan and conduct foreign policy.

Following former leader Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, the Supreme People’s Assembly did not meet for four years. At that meeting, it elected the younger Kim as the National Defense Commission chairman and officially launched his regime. At the time, the legislature also amended the Constitution and undertook a dramatic cabinet shakeup.

ORIGINAL POST
According to the Joong Ang Daily:

Yu Yong-sun, a 68-year-old Buddhist leader, has become North Korea’s senior South Korea policy maker, a top Seoul official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

Choe Sung-chol, deputy director of the United Front Department of the North Korean Workers’ Party, was in charge of Pyongyang’s South Korean affairs until early last year. After he lost the job, Yu, head of the Korean Buddhists Federation, was appointed to the post, the source said.

“Yu succeeded Choe in March last year,” the source said. “Choe was once deeply trusted by [North Korean] leader Kim Jong-il, but he stepped down because he had failed to accurately assess the outcome of the 2007 presidential election in the South, the Lee Myung-bak administration’s North Korea policy and the outlook for inter-Korean relations.”

The source also said corruption scandals involving the overseas North Korean assistance committee under the United Front Department played a role in Choe’s sacking.

Choe played a crucial role in arranging the second inter-Korean summit between the president of South Korea at the time, Roh Moo-hyun, and Kim in 2007.

Yu, the successor, is not an entirely new face in inter-Korean affairs. Since 2000, he represented the North in several rounds of inter-Korean ministerial talks. He has led the Buddhist group since May 2006.

“We’ve also obtained intelligence that Kwon Ho-ung, who used to be the chief negotiator for the inter-Korean ministerial talks, stepped down from the post and has been put under house arrest,” the source said.

The North reshuffled its cabinet recently, according to the South’s Unification Ministry. Ho Thaek, vice minister of the electric power industry, was promoted to minister. Other minister-level promotions also took place at the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Foreign Trade. (Jeong Yong-soo, JoongAng Ilbo)

The Choson Ilbo reports on some more ministerial changes:

North Korea has reshuffled two cabinet ministers and appointed a new man to a key post in the Workers’ Party. North Korean state media reported that Kim Tae-bong was appointed new metal industry minister and Hur Tack new power industry minister. They replace Kim Sung-hyun and Pak Nam-chil. Kim Kyong-ok as newly-named first deputy director of the ruling party’s Organization Guidance Department that controls the party, Army and administration and is headed by leader Kim Jong-il.

It is rare for reshuffles to be announced separately. The new economic appointments may be related to the emphasis on “economic recovery” in a New Year’s statement released in the state media last week that is the closest the North has to an annual message from Kim Jong-il, a government official here speculated. The statement described the metal industry as the “pillar of the independent economy of socialism” and said the electricity, coal and railroad sectors “should take the lead in the people’s economic development through reforms.” Hence replacement of the metal and power industry ministers, according to the official. He admitted little is known about the newly appointed ministers.

The Organization and Guidance Department’s new first deputy director Kim Kyong-ok is reportedly in charge of regional party organizations.

“If the power succession is to move smoothly, the economy must be revived and control of the party organization is essential,” an intelligence officer here said. He predicted noticeable changes in the North’s power structure this year. A researcher at the Korea Institute of National Unification said North Korea “is going to take various steps in a bid to prevent Kim Jong-il’s authority from weakening due to ill health.”

And from Yonhap:

North Korea promoted industrial veterans to top posts in its latest Cabinet reshuffle, signaling Pyongyang’s stepped-up drive to rebuild the country’s frail economy, Seoul officials and analysts said Tuesday.

A reshuffle in the communist state is usually inferred when new faces appear in its media, as the country does not publicize such moves.

Five new names were mentioned as the North’s ministers of railways, forestry, electricity, agriculture and metal industry in the North’s New Year message and reports in October, Seoul’s Unification Ministry Spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said.

“They are formerly vice ministers or those who climbed the ladder in each field. The reshuffle considered their on-spot experiences and expertise,” the spokesman said.

It was not clear when the reshuffle took place, he said.

North Korean media have been reporting a brisk campaign to rebuild the country’s ailing industrial infrastructure, following up on the New Year economic blueprint rolled out by leader Kim Jong-il. Kim called on citizens “to solve problems by our own efforts” and increase production in electricity, coal and daily equipment.

In the reshuffle, Jon Kil-su was named minister of railways; Kim Kwang-yong minister of forestry; Ho Taek minister of power industry; Kim Chang-sik minister of agriculture; Kim Tae-bong minister of metal industry.

Kim Kwang-yong and Kim Chang-sik were vice ministers and Jon held a senior post in their respective ministry. Ho was formerly a power plant chief, while little was known about Kim Tae-bong, Seoul officials said.

The shakeup was rumored to have affected more posts, but the Seoul spokesman could not officially confirm it.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea studies professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said the reshuffle is a sign that the North is shifting its focus to the economy from the military. In its New Year message, Pyongyang pledged to build a “prosperous and powerful nation” by 2012, the 100th anniversary of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, he noted.

“The key word this year is the economy,” Koh said. “The reshuffle seems to suggest officials with technical expertise should take the initiative to develop the economy.”

Kim Young-yoon, a researcher with the Korea Institute for National Unification, said Pyongyang is turning to its natural resources amid suspension of South Korean aid. The Seoul government halted its customary aid of rice and fertilizer this past year as Pyongyang refused offers of dialogue.

“North Korea has no other way but turn to its own natural resources as long as inter-Korean relations and the nuclear issue are in limbo,” he said.

Read the full articles here:
Buddhist leader gets North’s South policy spot
JoongAng Daily
Jeong Yong-soo
1/5/2009

N.Korea Reshuffles Economic Posts
Choson Ilbo
1/5/2009

N. Korea promotes industry veterans in Cabinet reshuffle
Yonhap
Kim Hyun
1/6/2008

North Korea says to elect MPs in government shake-up
Reuters
1/6/2009

North to hold parliamentary election
Joong Ang Ilbo
Ser Myo-ja
1/8/2009

Top North official said to be getting re-educated
Joong Ang Daily
1/12/2009

Share

DPRK authorities reclaim plots for tree planting

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-11-18-1
11/18/2008

The South Korean civic organization ‘Good Friends’ recently reported that North Korean authorities have prohibited North Koreans from working private plots in the mountains which had been cleared and used for grain production, and have recently begun replanting trees in these areas.

A source for Good Friends stated, “The Central Party decreed last September 29th, ‘The Fatherland’s mountains and fields must be adorned with green so that not one single desolate plot exists by the year 2012.’” Accordingly, garden plots are already being reclaimed from individuals and planted with trees.

North Korea is declaring 2012, the year which marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the 70th birthday of Kim Jong Il, ‘The Year Opening the Gates to a Strong and Prosperous Nation’.

The source stated that local residents in Booryung, North Hamm planted corn, potatoes, beans, and millet on those plots, relying on them for between 3 and 6 months worth of food, and that with the new decree prohibiting farming, more people would die. 

*NKeconWatch: The DPRK just recently replaced its Minister of Forestry.  This is his first large-scale policy initiative. 

Share

DPRK appoints new minister of forestry

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has recently promoted its vice forestry minister, Kim Kwang-yong, to the post of minister, according to the country’s state media on Wednesday.

Radio Pyongyang referred to Kim as forestry minister, rather than his previous title of vice minister, while carrying his comments on a recently broadcast statement from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Little is known about the new minister. He visited Russia a year ago while leading the ministry’s delegation as vice minister, according to North Korean media reports.

Kim’s predecessor, Sok Kun-su, was reportedly named to the post in October 2004.

On October 18, KCNA published the following story (this is the only mention of his name in KCNA online archives):

Delegation of Ministry of Forestry Leaves for Russia

Pyongyang, October 18 (KCNA) — A delegation of the DPRK Ministry of Forestry headed by Vice-Minister Kim Kwang Yong left Pyongyang Thursday to participate in the 12th meeting of the forestry sub-committee of the inter-governmental committee for cooperation in trade, economy and science and technology between the DPRK and Russia to be held in Russia.

Many North Korea watchers will remember that North Korean laborers are felling forests in Siberia (background here and here).  It looks like these business ventures are now part of Mr. Kim’s portfolio.

Read the full article here:
N. Korea names new forestry minister
Yonhap
10/29/2008

Share