About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The North Korean state has been warning citizens who hamper forest restoration and destroy natural habitats that they might face the death penalty for their crimes, photos obtained by NK News this month and taken last year have revealed.
The source could not say where in the country photos were taken, due to the sensitivity of obtaining the material.
The proclamation listed recommended and prohibited activities and was released by the DPRK’s Ministry of People’s Security under the National Defense Commission on March 17, 2015.
The punishment applies to all organizations and companies as well as residents.
“[The promulgation] clamps down, arrests and legally punishes those who violate [the rules], regardless of post position, distinguished service, and affiliation,” the Ministry of People’s Security said in a written statement.
“Someone causing forest fires or cutting down trees indiscriminately and illegally in specially protected forest areas will be punished ‘carrying a maximum penalty of death.’”
The People’s Security Ministry urged violators to confess within one month, saying those that do would be “treated leniently.”
The announcement also alluded to a feud between locals and the law enforcement tasked with protecting forests.
“Don’t ever protest against and assault officials in charge of supervising and controlling the enforcement,” the Ministry of People’s Security warned. The authorities said the criminal would be caught in the act and face “severe legal punishment.”
The North called on relevant organizations to “actively engage in” forest restoration campaigns and warned against hindering forest development, urging them to place emphasis on forestry rather than agriculture.
“The relevant organizations, companies, officials, employees, and residents should not disrupt production of saplings by not building a tree nursery or planting crops in the land for nursing seedlings,” the ministry said.
The announcement implied that the North Korean government had come into conflict with residents and organizations who had prioritized farming over forestry.
“The relevant organizations, companies, officials, employees, and residents must not grow only crops at the arable land for both forestry and agriculture with the arable land for both forestry and agriculture,” the ministry warned. “And [entities] shouldn’t blast trees by lifting their roots as considering that the trees spoil the crops.”
The announcement indicates that military authorities have heightened surveillance of damaging forest resources: illegally exploiting resources on mountains, slashing and burning fields and cultivating mulberry plantations or a field to gain extra income.
Building up a base for procuring raw materials and infrastructures such as roads and facilities were also prohibited.
“All organizations, companies, officials, employees and residents ought not to be organized to illegally chop trees and cut down trees recklessly and in secret and to convey and process the trees fell down illegally,” the Ministry of People’s Security said in a written announcement.
The ministry also issued a warning against picking medicinal herbs and gathering mushrooms without permission, as well as forbidding citizens from exporting and importing forest resources through illicit channels and selling and buying them on the black market.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un published an article entitled “Let the Entire Party, the Whole Army and All the People Conduct a Vigorous Forest Restoration Campaign to Cover the Mountains of the Country with Green Woods” on February 26, 2015, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on February 27.
“Calling on the entire party and army and all the people to turn the mountains of the country into thick woodland through a vigorous campaign to restore forests, he specified tasks and ways for doing so,” KCNA said.
Kim reiterated that North Korea should strengthen supervision and control over forest planting and protection.
“We should intensify legal control over forest planting and conservation. If legal control is weak, violation of law may not be discontinued,” KCNA reported quoting as Kim saying.
“Random felling should be made a serious issue, whatever the unit concerned is and whoever the person concerned is,” Kim said. “Units should be properly rewarded or punished according to their deserts with regard to forest planting and conservation.”
Kim criticized deforestation, saying “unauthorized felling of trees is tantamount to ‘treachery.’”
Featured Image: DPRK Today