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North Korean fuel shortage forces state to plant more trees

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korea's forests are declining, owing to a fuel shortage in the country. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korea's forests are declining, owing to a fuel shortage in the country. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- North Koreans are planting trees by day but cutting them down by night, according to sources in the country, a sign of the isolated nation's increasing fuel shortage.

Forests are quickly deteriorating because of fuel shortages, and desperate villagers are chopping down trees for firewood, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported.

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North Korea has ordered all citizens to take part in mass-mobilization movements to plant trees and restore the country's forests.

A source in North Korea told the JoongAng on Tuesday the statewide call for "forest restoration" comes at a critical time in the country's agrarian cycle.

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The months of March, April and May are devoted to rice planting, and regional authorities had already called on ordinary North Koreans to volunteer their labor for farming duties because of a lack of machinery.

But some of those volunteers are being relocated to sites where they are being expected to plant trees or nurse saplings to recover lost forests, the source said.

"The official tree planting season has ended, but authorities are now giving out guidelines for tree planting duties, even at factories and firms," the source said.

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The expanded tree-planting ordinance is calling for a greater focus on forest recovery reminiscent of similar mass mobilization movements that took place after the 1950-53 Korean War, according to the JoongAng.

On May 15, Pyongyang's Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun called on readers to "let the beautiful mountains and rivers of the fatherland be passed onto future generations."

Food insecurity is also a persistent problem in North Korea, where about 10 million people experience critical food shortages not found in neighboring countries.

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