DPRK’s forest area (89,273 km2) is consisted of 72.5% of its total country area (123,138 km2). The average altitude is 586 meter, but 77% of the mountains is in the range of 100 – 1,000 meters. There are over 10,000 rivers and streams, 100 lakes, and 1,700 reservoirs. The country has temperate climate with clear four seasons with average temperature of 8-12 degree Celsius and average precipitation of 1,000 -1,200 mm. Most of the forests include pines, cone pine, white pine, larch, oak, maple, linden tree, willow, etc. 9,950 types of plants and 9,970 types of animals are identified (Jang 2014).
(trend of annual precipitation in DPRK)
In the last several decades, about 3 million hectares of DPRK forests have been destroyed. The current size of the DPRK forests is estimated to be about 5.7 million hectares that have been reduced more than 30% from 8.2 million hectares in 1990. One of greatest impacts of this general deforestation is the frequent landslide (Ri 2014).
(Landslides caused by deforestation)
The area called “Sepo-deungpan” is located in Sepo-Ichon-Pyonggang counties, Gangwon-do, DPRK which is just the north of the DMZ. The 50,000-hectare-area of a huge meadow is at about 700 meter height above sea level. The area is very windy and cold reaching minus 30 degree Celsius during the winter. According to an official from the DPRK Ministry of Land and Environment Protection, about 40,000 hectares of natural prairie were already constructed for cattle and about 10,000 hectares of pasture is being constructed for growing stock feed during the winter.
(Map of Pyonggang, DPRK)
(Beginning of Sepo-deungpan comprising Sepo-Ichon-Pyonggang County)
(From left: Daniel Lee (OGKM), Ri Kyung Sik (DPRK MLEP), Paul Kim (OGKM), Seung-ho Lee (DMZF & OGKM)
(Endless view of the Sepo-deungpan leading to the DMZ)
In addition to constructing prairie for animals, workers are building various facilities for humans and animals for a living.
(Facility for animals in Sepo-deungpan)
(Housing for workers in Sepo-deungpan)
(Mountain view along with rainbow from Sepo-deungpan; Seung-ho Lee)
While coming down from the mountains of Sepo-deungpan, we luckily saw a rainbow which lasted only about 3 minutes.
From Pyongyang to Sepo-deungpan, we should go through Wonsan, an Eastern port city. If we use the Wonsan Airport, we can make about a three hour trip to Sepo-deungpan from Wonsan by car.
Toward the ultimate preservation of Korea’s DMZ corridor for peace and environmental renewal it is proposed to develop a model system showing the environmental, economic and humanitarian benefits of building a cooperative agro-forestry zone nearby the land of DMZ corridor. In the end, the transformation of the entire DMZ into a peace zone requires that North and South Korea enter into a joint enterprise to fully realize such benefits. (Kim and Wilson 2002). In fact, there are numerous successful examples for biodiversity conservation in protected areas and peace parks from many countries around the world (Westing 1993, Aureli and de Wall 2000, Ali 2007). That should result in advancing more peaceful relations between previously antagonistic nations.
Similarly, we have already started working on some details on transboundary parks and nature reserves for peace, ecology, history, and culture across the territorial boundary, linking Mt. Sorak, Mt. Keumgang, and the Cheorwon-Pyonggang plateau. In this process, we have acquired a full acknowledgement on the need for a peaceful and environmentally-friendly use of the DMZ and its surrounding areas from South Korean government and NGOs. But as the trust level between the two Koreas has become quite low, there has been no effective communication between the two Koreas about the need for the peaceful use of the DMZ and its surroundings.
Under this circumstance, international NGOs such as One Green Korea Movement (OGKM) and The DMZ Forum (DMZF) are playing a bridging role in linking the two Koreas. DMZF will work together with OGKM to build an agro-forestry zone in Sepo-deungpan in Pyonggang, Gangwon-do, DPRK. The goal for creating this agro-forestry zone is to show the potential of transforming a former war zone into a peace zone with great environment, economic and humanitarian benefits for the world. The fruits and products produced by this agro-forestry zone will be shared by all the needy children in the world. Through this initial construction of the agro-forestry zone, we could achieve the following objectives: 1) improvement of the children’s health; 2) economic interaction for worldwide humanitarian needs; 3) reducing military and political tension on the Korean peninsula.
As the preliminary survey of the model area of Sepo-deungpan, Pyonggang, DPRK, is completed in late July 2014, logistic details, such as site design, methods and materials, protocols, personnel, budgets, and others, would be developed soon.
Ultimately, this pilot project would give us a capacity and confidence in continuous monitoring and reporting on the program in DPRK that is handled by International NGOs in cooperation with the local organizations. Providing capacity building through agro-forestry zone incurs carbon reduction and economic market. Soil and water resources will be protected and biodiversity and agricultural productivity will be improved. Also, environments for human recreation will be constituted.