Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reforestation in Korea: Past and Present

Forest specialists regard South Korea’s massive reforestation campaign under Park Chung-hee as one of the most successful such efforts in the world. Professor Teplyakov, a noted expert on forest governance, discusses how the ROK accomplished this remarkable success and the challenges facing South Korea’s forests today. Drawing on a recent visit to the DPRK, he also assesses the state of deforestation in North Korea and the current efforts Pyongyang is making to address this serious problem.

Reforestation in Korea: Dramatic Success under Park Chung-hee and Current Efforts in the DPRK

Pre-colonial time
Colonial time (1910-1945)
Korean War (1953-1955)
  1. Dramatic success under President Park Chung-hee
  2. Current efforts in the DPRK
Potential for two Koreas cooperation in reforestation

Pre-colonial time (before 1920)

In the 1900s wood disappeared from villages for farming, firewood and construction. (South Korean population in 1902: 20 million people)
  • Forest: owned by government and open to the public
  • Fuel-wood: collection was allowed to everyone
  • Forest near villages: already destroyed
  • Government timber supply policy: only pine forests protected for timber need

Colonial Past & Korean War

Occupation (1910-1945)

Timber harvested in Korea used for Japanese domestic purposes:
  • Construction
  • Military purposes
  • Fuel
Large scale deforestation:
  • Manchurian border (Korean pine)
  • Uljin and Bonghwa (pine)
  • Near villages for fuel

Korean War (1950-1955)

  • During the Korean War the remnants of forests were brutally damaged by bombing, wild fires, and overuse.
  • Substantial amount of timber was used as fuel wood for heating and cooking.
  • In the long run, this led to over-cutting and illegal logging.

After the Korean War

About 5.5 million people came to South Korea from other countries.
  • Massive migration exaggerated the fuel wood shortage
  • One million family units = at least 1000 ha of forest

Peat and brown coal were too low in caloric power to reach the demand for traditional heating systems. Results:
  • Forestland clearing for farming (slash-and-burn)
  • Timber harvesting for houses and infrastructure

Results of deforestation:

Korean peninsula lost a large share of its forests:
  • Deforested mountains lost their shape and functionality
  • Landslides, floods, soil erosion occurred almost annually
  • In 1960, ROK’s average growing stock accounted at less than 10 cubic m/ha

First attempt to solve some of the deforestation problem:

Rhee Syng-man (1875-1965)

During his presidency 1948-1960
  • 2.8 billion trees planted
  • 1.05 million ha reforested

No success
  • Lack of governmental will
  • Financial and organizational shortages
  • Poor technologies and poor forest protection

Second attempt under General Park Chung-hee (1917-1979)

On 16 May 1961, led military govt to begin immediate eradication of 5 major social ills:
  • Smuggling
  • Narcotics
  • Illegal timber harvesting (enforcing the govt’s will for forest protection)
  • Gangsters
  • Quai-reporters

Part I: Dramatic Success under President Park Chung-hee

President Park Chung-hee is notoriously known as the president who side-stepped election and in a political coup seized the govt, reigning as a military tyrant till his assassination in 1979. However, he did work good for the country, and one benefit for the Korean people as a whole was the replanting and protection of the forests. In his reforestation project he …
  • Showed good leadership
  • Developed Saemaul Undong (New Community Movement) as a national idea
  • Successfully implemented Korea Forest Service and Forest programs
  • Garnered international recognition
2 million households were involved in Saemaul Undong in the early 1970s
through 21,000 voluntary cooperative associations at village level

His strong leadership in reforestation is evident in:
  • 1961 June: Forest Products Regulation Act
  • 1961 December: Enactment of Forest Law
  • 1962 January: Erosion Control Act
  • 1962: National Popular Planting Movement (within next 20 years, some 730,000 ha reforested)
  • 1963, February: Temporary Act of Forest Reclamation
  • 1964: Incidence of a large scale illegal timber harvesting
  • President Park put a few hundred people in jail
    Showed a strong will for wiping out further incidences
  • 1967: Establishment of Forest Service (protection and management)
  • 1967: Fuel wood plantation: 360,000 ha, 1.4 billion trees in a single year (largest ever)
  • 1967: Introduction of National Parks (conservation and recreation)
  • 1968: Promotion of chestnut plantation (reforestation and food)
  • 1970 (April 22): Saemaul Undong (reforestation, food, poverty reduction) 
  • 1971: Greenbelt system adopted (human environment, recreation, etc)

Other reforestation actions he undertook:

  • Sikmogil (Arbor Day) – established as a national holiday (until 2005) to rehabilitate deprived lands and to enlighten citizens about the importance of forests.
  • During Arbor Days some 643,000 ha of forestlands were rehabilitated coast-to-coast.
  • The reforestation strategy was developed and implemented.
  • Nationwide erosion control project was initiated.
  • A new community movement called “Saemaul Undong” became wide national driving force for reforestation.
  • The first 10-year systematic forest development plan was implemented.

The first forest rehabilitation plan

Was to be from 1973-1982 (finished in 6 years with the assassination of Park)
1 million hectares with 2 billion trees were planted in that time.
Saemaul Undong movement (involved women clubs, schools, military, villagers, etc)
  • Spiritual inspiration for reforestation: “Planting trees is patriotic activity”
  • Self-reliance: fuel wood forest establishment for farmer’s fuel needs
  • Cooperation: voluntary participation, income generation, reward (govt subsidies for village)
Saemaul nursery produced 2.9 billion trees in 6 years

Korea received a lot of international recognition of its highly successful reforestation which was accomplished in such a small space of time. The UN FAO Report in 1982 read, “Korea is the only developing country that has succeeded in reforestation after the Second World War.” (Source: H.M. Gregerson “Village Forestry Development in the Republic of Korea: A case study”)

actions taken to prevent soil erosion
The world famous Youngil District erosion control project (pictures represent a 6 year gap in time)

Facts pulled from the archives on Saemaul Undong:

  • During 1970-1979, Korea’s average farm household income jumped from $825 to $4,602, settling a milestone in poverty reduction.
  • Other data: from 255,000 to 1,531,300 won (without inflation)
  • The spirit of “Diligence, Self-help and Cooperation” spread widely among the rural population.
  • The movement laid the foundation for Korea to grow into a major economy from one of the world’s poorest countries.
  • The experience of the Korean people in this process is a valuable asset for humankind.
  • Between 1970 and 2011, some 53,000 public officials and village leaders from 129 nations visited Korea to learn about Saemaul Undong.

The results of reforestation on Korea

  • Between 1953 and 2007, forest cover of the country increased from 35-64%
  • Between 1961 and 1995, a successful reforestation allowed increasing forest area from 4 million ha to 6.4 million ha
  • By 2008, the ROK planted around 11 billion trees
  • Between 1950 and 2010, growing stock increased from 9-126 cubic m/ha
  • Serf-sufficiency of timber consumption increased
  • In 2007, public benefits were valued at US$60 billion

Part II: Current Efforts in the DPRK

Problems have arisen since 1991

The last 20 years has dramatically changed the global political landscape after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the demise of East-European bloc of countries in 1991.
As well, significant changes in the political map have occurred in Asia, when People’s Republic of China in 1992 established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea.

In such developments, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea found itself in difficult circumstances because its two big neighbors—Russia and China—almost terminate their support of DPRK in energy, agriculture, and military spheres.

Especially radical changes began in 1994 when DPRK President Kim Il-Sung passed away, and the government of the country decided to withdraw from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEI), which created an uneasy situation in the region.

Example: Trade between Russia and DPRK

Notice the plunge in resources that the DPRK took from 1990 to 1991. Since 1990 the DPRK has been very cut off from what it had been previously consuming. At the former level, this hit is dire as heating in the cold DPRK is essential in the long winter, and so North Korean forests have been further radically decimated to meet the needs of the common people.

1990 - $2.5 billion (the USSR)
1991 - $365 million (the USSR/Russia)
1995 - $70.1 million
2000 - $38.4 million
2002 - $130 million
2005 - $228 million
2006 - $190 million
2007 - $126 million
2010 - $82.3 million

17 September 2012 – Russia and DPRK reached an agreement that DPRK owes a debt of $11 billion to Russia:
  • Russia canceled the DPRK’s debt of $10 billion
  • Remaining $1 billion should be spent for joint projects in DPRK in education, health care and in the energy sector
Similarly, if one looks at the light emission/pollution in one of NASA’s global night maps, the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea, and to a lesser extent other countries are brilliantly illuminated. Just north of South Korea is a particularly dark spot on the global map. North Korea has next to no night illumination. The country doesn’t have the resources and neither does it have the imports to facilitate such “visualization”.

Some statistics on the world economies, which are reflected in the NASA night maps:
  • In 1980, EU15 had 29% of the world GDP, NAPTA 27%, and East Asia 14%.
  • In 2000, EU15 had 25%, while that of NAFTA had increased and East Asia almost doubled. In total, the three regions represented 83% of world GDP.

National economy of North Korea is very vulnerable in facing natural disasters. Thus deforestation and land use change create risks for people’s well-being.

DPRK’s strategy program for reforestation

Main tasks in the general forestation program:
  • 10 years: forest recovery stage (establishment of model units and their expansion)
  • 20 years: recovery complete stage
  • 30 years: escalating forests resources stage
Critical areas for aid and assistance
  • Information: need of databases creation for land use, forest activities, biodiversity)
  • SFM policies: lack policies and legislation on forest use, planning and management
  • Knowledge sharing: lack of clear understanding of land value, causes and consequences of degradation
  • Financial aid
  • Capacity building

The 19th ASEAN-ROK Summit: ASEAN-ROK Forest Cooperation Agreement
  • Signed by the ASEAN-ROK Foreign Affairs Ministers at the 19th ASEAN-ROK Summit on 18 November 2011 in Bali, Indonesia
  • Entry into force: 5 August 2012
  • Special ASEAN-ROK Ministerial Meeting on Forestry in Seoul, ROK, 30 August 2012

  • Political environment is very sensitive, but extremely important.
  • Flood and drought are major threats to food insecurity in DPRK.
  • One of the most efficient methods to resolve environmental and economic problems is reforestation.
  • Significance of reforestation should be promoted at all levels of governance and management.
  • Establishing real international partnerships at all levels is critical point for the DPRK reforestation and economic growth.
  • ROK’s success story is internationally recognized and can be used in DPRK as a pattern, especially Saemaul Undong.
  • Forest is a renewable resource, and deforestation is reversible.

Prof. Teplyakov is Professor of Global Forest Governance and Nature Conservation, Seoul National University. Dr. Teplyakov previously served as Professor at Moscow State Forest University, Director of Research at the Russian Federal Forest Service, and Head of the Global Temperate and Boreal Forest Program of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. He is the author and co-author of many articles, chapters and books dealing with forest resources assessments, forest management and governance, international forestry, nature conservation, forest history and a participatory approach in the forestry sector. His most recent co-authored books are “Sustainable Forest Management” (in Russian, December 2009, 2d edition, April 2014), “North Korea Reforestation: International regime and domestic opportunities” (September 2012 in English), Sustainable Forests in 4 volumes (October 2013 in English), 산림과학개론/Introduction in Forest Sciences (May 2014 in Korean), and "A History of IUFRO Congresses and Russia" in 2 volumes (September 2014 in Russian).

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