More than 1,000 South Koreans will visit North Korea to plant trees to help stop deforestation.
The visits will start this weekend and continue through next month.
The Onnuri Community Church in Yongsan, Seoul said yesterday that it has reached an agreement with North Korea to allow 500 South Koreans, including church members, celebrities, students and business-people, to visit Kaesong on April 5 to plant 16,000 fruit trees.
The participants will leave Seoul at 6 a.m., plant trees at a park in Kaesong and return to Seoul in the evening.
Around 270 members of Peace Forest, a South Korean civic group, will visit Mount Kumgang on Saturday and Sunday to plant trees. About 160 members of the Salvation Army Korea Territory will visit Mount Kumgang from April 2 to 4, followed by 200 members of the Korean Sharing Movement, a civic group, who will go to Kaesong on April 10.
“If North Korea is deforested, it will impact South Korea because the two countries’ ecosystems are connected,” said Ra Joon-seok, a minister at the church.
North Korea has 9.16 million hectares of forests, 1.5 times more than South Korea. But due to North Korea’s nationwide territory reform project of the 1970s, many forests were cleared and transformed into agricultural land. The country’s economic recession worsened deforestation as residents also used trees as fuel for cooking and heat.
Decreasing forests have resulted in massive floods. In 1995, 5.2 million people lost their homes to flooding and the total damage was estimated at $15 billion.
“Forests serve as a dam to control floods and drought, but North Korean forests lost their function as they were significantly ruined,” said Lee Seong-ho, a researcher at the Korea Forest Research Institute.
By Kang Chan-su, Han Eun-hwa JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]