North Korea’s environmental problems have not garnered nearly as much attention as its nuclear and missile programs, signature construction projects or vague commitments to improving the economy, but it is an area that has seen the most interesting developments under Kim Jong Un’s tenure. Deforestation is a massive problem in the country as the lack of trees contributes to flooding during the annual rainy season. Much more so than his predecessors, Kim has put a spotlight on the problem and more frankly described its systemic causes as he wrestles with a basic dilemma: deforestation occurred largely because of an economic crisis whose root causes remain unresolved. People cut down trees for fuel and firewood, and to clear land for farming. As long as the lack of food and fuel persists, Kim’s reforestation plans will be very difficult to implement.
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