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Help plant trees in N. Korea to facilitate `green` reunification

Help plant trees in N. Korea to facilitate `green` reunification

Posted January. 03, 2014 03:13,   


When North Korea`s Koryo Air flight from Beijing, China enters North Korean territory across the Amnok River, one can see the barren landscape of the North. The dirt on its mountains is laid bare due to heavy logging. The condition of North Korean mountains, which remind one of South Korean mountains in the 1950s and 60s before reforestation, is directly connected to the communist state`s economic woes. North Koreans bulldozed hills to make farming fields and cut trees for firewood.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stressed reforestation in his New Year`s speech. He did not mention reforestation in last year`s speech. He might have thought of the forests in Switzerland, where he studied. With nearly one-third of its entire forest land devastated, it would take some 50 years to reforest it. Therefore, North Korea experts cite providing medical services and nutrition and planting trees as some of the most urgent projects that should not be postponed until after reunification, as the tasks would cost huge amounts of time and money. Even if we get on to them right now, the fruits will be born in a distant future.

South Korea is the only country that has succeeded in artificial reforestation since the World War II. The Park Chung-hee administration implemented reforestation as one of its key projects by placing the Korea Forest Service from the agriculture ministry to more powerful interior ministry. The administration mobilized 3.6 million man-days over a period of seven years and strongly prohibited people from entering mountains to protect them. The foresight during the country`s economically poor times resulted in today`s green forests.

South Korea`s decades of reforestation experiences will be more useful to North Korea than to any other country. No other experts in the world would know more than South Koreans one regarding how to reforest North Korean mountains. The reforestation of the North is an area of inter-Korean cooperation regardless of political issues between the two Koreas. There is little concern that the North would use seedlings provided by the South for military purposes. That is why former South Korean Prime Minister Goh Kun, who was in charge of reforestation projects under the Park Chung-hee administration, is deeply interest in reforesting the North. Previous South Korean administration internally considered the issue for implementation, although they were not able to carry out the project due to strained relations with the North. Now is the perfect time to launch the project, as the North Korean leader has extended an olive branch to the South in his New Year`s speech.

Last April, the Dong-A Ilbo proposed North Korea`s reforestation as one of seven key tasks for projects to prepare for reunification of the two Koreas. The intention was that the two Koreas open an era of reunification with green détente. The New Year`s speech by the North Korean leader has some parts that are difficult for Seoul to fully comprehend. However, it would be possible for the two Koreas to have deep discussions about making North Korean forests green again without being constrained by their ideological differences. It is necessary for the South to be more active in discussing the issue so that such cooperation can lay the foundation for reunification. The Dong-A Ilbo will support the cause until the day when the two Koreas become one.