Cause of Barren Mountains: Imperialism-Natural Disaster-Officers

Daily NK
Han Young Jin

“I ordered trees to be planted. Why are the mountains bare!”

North Korean authorities released a publication on the 6th which summarized that, “We must work hard in forestry in order to make our country beautiful.” This order was made by Kim Jong Il on March 6th 2002 to authorities, the state, military and the elite. 5 years on, authorities now honor and remember the words spoken by the dear leader through a propagandist publication that is published whenever the state deems necessary. The content of this publication was also revealed on the official North Korean website “Uriminzokkiri (amongst our nation).”

The document usually contains the comprehensive ideologies and theories made by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il that need to be passed on to the people.

Following are a few of the decrees found in the publications.

“The nation is experiencing economic difficulty due to coupling natural disasters and imperialists who are trying to isolate us. Trees are growing sporadically in the hills and mountain regions. The mountains are also becoming barren….”

“For the past few years, I have been telling you to work hard afforestation and have encouraged you at every opportunity.”

“However, an forestation has not met the criteria of authorities and is not going according to plan.”

Kim Jong Il’s Analysis

What Kim Jong Il is trying to say is that, “The reason afforestation is not working is because of the people’s reckless slash-and-burn cultivation, as well as the inefficiency of officers unable to block it.”

After the food crisis in ’95, people uprooted vines and trees to suffice their underfed diets, as well as cultivating illegal farms for food. Further, to save themselves from freezing to death, people used trees as firewood.

At the time, people were desolate, battling between life and death. If, however, these people were controlled and prohibited from such actions at the time, defectors say that many of those people would not be alive today.

The destruction of mountains Kim Jong Il argues resulted from cunning imperialists isolating North Korea and the severe natural disasters that continued to plague the country. Yet, there is no evidence to support this claim.

The international community did not enforce pressure to the extent that North Korea could not resolve its problem of firewood. Rather, after the 1994 Geneva Agreement, 50,000 tons of fuel was provided annually. Despite this, Kim Jong Il always redirects the responsibility of lack of energy on the international community and the failure of public welfare on the U.S.

Even evidence to support that natural disasters caused a downfall to the economy has become obscure. It is true that North Korea was hit with drought and flood during 1995~1997, however there has not been any major natural disasters since this time and in 2002 when these decrees were first made. Instead, North Korea should have re-planted much of the mountain trees, though reality is not the case. Rather, Kim Jong Il is blaming the failure of national construction and forestation on mother nature.

Without resolving the food crisis, the mountains will remain bare

Every year, for about a month during the spring (early March~April) and fall (early Nov~Dec) seasons, North Korea enters a time of national construction where the rivers and waterways are cleared and trees planted. This national construction first began in March 1996.

North Korea has aimed to plant a billion trees and has been planting this number of trees every year. Following 10 years of national construction, what is the current state of North Korea?

If national construction had worked as planned, North Korea’s mountains should be dense in trees. However, the cause of North Korea’s mountains being so bare is evidence that the food crisis has not yet been solved.

North Korean authorities ordered citizens that they had the right to eat the tree saplings and cereals as it had been cultivated on the mountains which were illegal grounds. On the other hand, the people are continuously angry as trees are overtaking the land in which their grains should be planted. As a result, whenever a tree has grown a certain height, people uproot the trees and plant a smaller sapling in its place. In the end, though the idea of planting trees has been fulfilled, the mountains are still barren.

Ultimately, it seems that North Korea’s empty mountains will continue until the food issue is resolved.


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