March 2 (UPI) -- North Korea is promoting tree planting in state media, an ongoing project that could be part of a reforestation drive under Kim Jong Un.
Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a front page article published Tuesday the planting of trees in the spring should be undertaken collectively with a "patriotic mind."
"Under the Party's grand design, the people are full of fiery enthusiasm to transform all the mountains of the fatherland into mountains of gold and treasure, lush with green forests," the Rodong said on annual "Tree-Planting Day."
State media calls to turn the landscape green come after Kim mentioned reforestation during the Eighth Party Congress in January, according to South Korean news service News 1. Kim had ordered an "accurate and swift" response to an environment that has deteriorated amid poverty.
Deforestation in North Korea as an issue came to light after the Great Famine of the late '90s. Hunger and lack of fuel during the difficult period led to the destruction of trees, used as a cheap source of fuel among the impoverished population. Defectors who survived the famine have said they sometimes ate pine tree bark, according to Amnesty International.
"Forests are a precious resource of the country, an important foundation for the rich development of the fatherland, the happiness of the people, and a source of cherished wealth to be passed on to future generations," the Rodong said Tuesday.
It is unclear whether Kim's reforestation policy has had a visible impact on the environment, but satellite images from last year show some progress.
Analyst Bruce Songhak Chung said in an analysis published to 38 North in December the country shows signs of reforestation around Pyongyang and South Pyongan Province.
"There are also signs of continued deforestation in areas around remote villages," Chung wrote.