The forests of North Korea have long been under threat. At the beginning of the last century the economic development under Japanese occupation led to the shrinkage of the forest area. During the Korean War in the 50s huge forest areas and most of the old trees were burned down or largely destroyed by chemical attacks as it was done in Vietnam.
Since then there have been great efforts, in the North as well as in the South, to reforest. Since the 50s, South Korea has almost doubled its proportion of forest area from 35 % to 64 %. But in the North the efforts have been felled year by year since the famine at the end of the 90s, either because the people needed firewood or needed to grow their food. The great nationwide effort to produce enough food are pushing back the forest area.
Meanwhile North Korea is the Country with the third highest forest loss per year in the world! Therefore, the government is trying to solve the problem holistically and is taking countermeasures with a national 10-year plan for the agriculture and forestry. It is a major challenge for the rural population to designate land areas for reforestation, since every square meter of acreage is already being used for the cultivation of basic foods.
In the last 15 years the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) has developed good examples in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, in combining erosion protection, slope cultivation and forest management. These shall now be multiplied in the whole country. The Korean government has also asked us to be actively involved in this field.
(Image: Older image of a tree nursery ( from «Forests of Korea», Academy of Forestry, Pyongyang 1992)