South Korea sent about 50 tons of pesticides to North Korea on Thursday to aid its fight against pine tree diseases, the Ministry of Unification said, amid signs of slow progress on stalled inter-Korean cooperation projects.
Vehicles loaded with the chemicals crossed the military demarcation line, the de facto border bisecting the Korean Peninsula, via a western land route at around 8:30 a.m., a ministry official said. The materials were loaded at a parking lot in the North’s border town of Kaesong and transferred to the North, the official added.
A team of 15 South Koreans, including experts and National Forest Service officials, was dispatched to the North as well. They were to inspect the woodlands around Kaesong with their North Korean counterparts and spray pesticides on the pine trees. Devices such as sprayers were to be provided by the North.
After wrapping up the pest control, both sides were to discuss cooperation measures to protect forests. Modernization of tree farms in North Korea and details concerning the project such as site inspections were expected to be discussed as well, according to the official.
The two Koreas agreed at a forestry cooperation meeting Oct. 22 to pursue the modernization of 10 North Korean tree farms and provide chemicals to combat pine tree diseases.
The Unification Ministry on Wednesday stressed that the chemicals were not subject to the UN Security Council sanctions against the communist nation.
However, certain aspects of the work to modernize tree farms may violate sanctions, according to the ministry official. The matter was discussed at the latest working group meeting between South Korea and the US and all follow-up efforts will respect the sanctions, he added.
The two Koreas’ cooperation on forestry comes a day ahead of the launch of a scheduled joint inspection of cross-border railways. The 18-day inspection starts Friday and will involve the test-operation of a train across about 2,600 kilometers of railway in North Korea.
Some 2.84 million of the North’s 89.9 million hectares of forestland were destroyed in 2008, according to a report released by the Unification Ministry in May, citing research by the National Institute of Forest Science. The ministry said this research is conducted every 10 years and the latest figures will be announced by the end of the year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been voicing his hopes for the reforestation of North Korea’s mountains since his rise to power in late 2011. Pyongyang has been focusing on its own reforestation plans, aimed at breaking the vicious cycle of deforestation and natural disasters such as floods and landslides, which could ultimately lead to food shortages.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)