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N. Koreans cut off trees for crops

Posted April. 14, 2014 03:32,   

Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00


“All small and large trees on hills were cut down.”

Shin Eun-ha, 27, and Kim A-ra, 24, two beautiful women from North Korea who gained popularity after appearing on Channel A’s show “Now, on My Way to Meet You,” recalled the hills and mountains in the North.

Shin who escaped the North in 2003 said on her life in Musan in North Hamgyong Province, “As all trees in the mountain were cut off for firewood, there were only stump trees.” She said while many trees on the sidewalks in Seoul make the street look narrower, one could not see a big tree in North Korea even standing at the top of a hill.

Kim who left Hoiryong, North Hamgyong Province, to the South also said that her hometown was barren. “As mountains became barren, people started a tree-planting campaign,” She said. “But they could not afford to do so because they could barely eat.” Pyongyang recently released a 10-year plan to restore hills and mountains and plant a total of 6.5 billion trees by 2023. It is said, however, that the North could not do so.

The North Korean defectors said that North Korea’s supply system has been paralyzed since the “March of Tribulation” in the late 1990s. North Korean residents cultivated even the top of mountains in search of firewood and food, which accelerated deforestation.

Shin said, “When I was an elementary school student, I studied in the morning and climbed to the hill in the neighborhood with a hoe and a sickle. All of some 700 students cut down trees and dug up roots and planted corns or beans instead.” Kim also said, “My daily routine was cutting off trees on the hill in the neighborhood to plant yellow grains and corns with my dad after coming home.”

As mountains in North Korea become barren, the quality of air is worsening. Shin said, “When I say that I’m from North Korea, people ask me, “Isn’t the air clean there?” Definitely, it is not. As people burned all sorts of wastes including plastics due to the lack of fuels, black smoke and ashes came out of all chimneys. Even standing outside the house for ten minutes would make my nose black.” The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said in 2012 that Pyongyang’s average level of sulfurous acid gases was 0.009 ppm in 2008, which is higher than Seoul’s 0.006 ppm in the same year. The toxic gas causes respiratory diseases and acid rain.

They said that making North Korea greener is an investment for reunification. “If reunified, the South should help make North Korea greener as it will be the land where our children and grandchildren will live,” Shin said. “The Dong-A Ilbo and Channel A’s campaign ‘A Tree, a Green Korean Peninsula,` has the same purpose, I will participate in the fundraising drive and let more people know about this.” Kim said, “It is meaningful to send seedlings to the North, but a strong control will be needed. Some people say that the trees sent to the North often turn into firewood or resold to other countries.” Kim added, “I still recall that many kids play using stump trees in the North. I want to plant pine trees to enable kids play in the mountains.”