A third of forest areas in North Korea has been destroyed

SEOUL, May 6 (UPI) — A third of North Korea’s woodlands have been destroyed due to fires and disasters, the South’s unification ministry said Sunday.

The South Korean government aims to seek ways to restore forests in the North, as a means of humanitarian assistance, following the Panmunjom Declaration reached by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Apr. 27 inter-Korean summit.

Some 2.84 million of the North’s 89.9 million hectometers of forest area has been devastated, according to a report compiled by the National Institute of Forest Science.

Major causes of forest devastation in the North have been plant diseases, insects, and forest fires created by slash-and-burn farming methods, Yonhap reported.

Pine tree insects and other kinds of bugs have reportedly damaged some 25,000 hectometers of forest areas, and roughly 365 counts of forest fires between 2000 and 2002 destroyed 12,800 hectometers of the woodlands.

From 1999 to 2008, some 170,000 hectometers of forest areas were converted into roads and building complexes but 1.2 million hectometers was lost due to disasters.

As the latest figures are from 2008, observers expect the scale of damaged has increased over the years.

In February this year, satellite images indicated there had been two fires in the North’s Hamgyong Province.

Seoul plans to create a special committee and a research team to support forest restoration in the North, Newsis reported.