Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

Let’s Send Trees of Life to Save the Northern Land

2018-10-11 16:31

Kukmin Daily and the relief organization Korea Food for the Hungry International are starting a “Trees for Life Campaign” to restore North Korea’s devastated forests and to help farming villages become self-reliant. North Korea’s food shortage has led in recent times to the clearing of mountain forests for cultivation of “upper fields,” and to the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for use as firewood in cooking and heating, resulting in serious forest destruction. KFHI and Kukmin Daily are supporting a project to send hazelnut, chestnut, peach and other fruit and nut tree saplings to the region that extends from Dandong, China to Pyongan-bukdo, North Korea. The planted trees will restore the devastated land in the North, and the fruits and nuts they bear after a few years will be a substantial help to the local residents. Campaign participants can send one tree for 5,000 won, or four trees for 20,000 won, to be planted in the northern land (kfhi.or.kr/tree)

“The ‘upper fields’ are visible even on the ridges of very high mountains. The residents, short of food, have gone all the way up there, cultivated the land and turned it into farm fields. There’s a different landscape across the river in China, with its thick mountain forests.”

This explanation was given on September 30 by KFHI general manager Kim Ju-han, following his riverside observations in Euiju-gun during a sightseeing boat trip from Zhen’an district in Dandong city, China, along the Yalu River (Amnokgang).

Today in North Korea the only places suitable for planting crops have mostly been deforested, with only a few historical sites still preserved. During the observation trip, Kim’s well-informed North Korean travel companion pointed out a village where the mountain was nearly stripped bare, with a small but remarkably dense forest remaining down below (photo below). “Leader Kim Il Sung used to go there to give guidance in the past; later, it was made into a historical site,” he said.

The North Korean government also recognizes the gravity of the situation. Since his appointment as State Affairs Commission Chairperson in 2012, Kim Jong-un has been emphasizing rehabilitation of mountain forests.

Another knowledgeable source on North Korea reported that the method of “composite forestry-farming management,” introduced by North Korea in 2013, is demonstrating its effectiveness in local areas. It seems that when the government ordered the planting of trees in the upper fields, people resisted this because, in a situation of scarcity, their immediate needs were food and fuel. Eventually, the composite forestry-farming management system was introduced, with trees being planted on slopes, and farm crops and herbs being planted among the trees; and the residents are in agreement with this method.

Experts at home and abroad agree on the need to consider ways of linking food support with employment projects, for the recovery of North Korea’s forests. The North Korean government is encouraging formation of forests with an emphasis on quantitative targets, but as the food problem remains unsolved, reportedly less than 30% of the transplanted saplings have survived. A service team expecting to work in Dandong area, fellow passengers on the boat trip, said, “Because fruit and nut trees are substantially helpful to the North Korean residents, they take root at a very high rate…When trees are planted in a way that helps with the food problem, the additional effect will be substantial restoration of mountain forests.”

Article and photo by reporter Narae Kim (narae@kmib.co.kr), from Dandong (China), with Marion Kim (marionkkim@icloud.com)

Original Article in Korean:
[북녘땅 살리는 생명나무를 보내자] 개간하고 땔감으로 베고… 민둥산이 병풍처럼 이어져: (上) 식량난으로 급격히 황폐화되는 북한의 산림

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