Is North Korea a Global Threat?
Historical and Political Context (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
In the aftermath of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two countries in accordance with a United Nations arrangement. North of the 38th parallel, the North Korean government, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), was formally established in 1948. The Korean Workers Party, supported by the Soviet Union, became a ruling party. The government established a centralizing system and nationalized all properties. Economic activities were conducted under state control. In June, 1950, North Korea entered the Korean War against South Korea, and the war lasted until July, 1953. After the war, the government emphasized heavy industry, along with a centralized, planned economy.
North Korea developed a political ideology, Juche (self-reliance), whose goal was to strengthen the country economically and militarily and finally to make North Korea immune to foreign invasion and capitalist intervention. This ideology has prevented the nation from keeping technological pace with other industrialized countries and has made North Korea one of the poorest nations in the world.
In 1994, Kim Jung-il succeeded his father, Kim Il-sung, as general secretary of the Korean Workers Party. In July, 2002, North Korea started to open its border and to adopt capitalism. The government set up a free-trade zone near its border with China. However, the government still maintained a firm political control...
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Impact of North Korean Policies on Climate Change (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
After the Korean War, the government moved toward a command economy and nationalized all assets. Since then, all economic activities have been conducted under state control. The centralized, planned economy grew significantly in industrial production and made significant progress in social infrastructure. The government has consistently promoted economic development policies that place top priority on heavy industry, including electricity production, steel production, and machine building. In turn, unreasonably one-sided promotion of heavy industry has deepened structural imbalances between North Korean industries. This “heavy industry first” policy has made North Korea unable to catch up to new technological developments or to phase out its coal-and-steel-based economy. The government also pursues military strength while striving to develop its economy.
In the 1970’s, environmental pollution became a serious issue after two decades of industrialization emphasizing heavy industry and reckless development of natural resources. However, the government did not regulate this pollution until the Environmental Protection Law, established to prevent pollution and promote environmental preservation in 1986. Other environmental policies have also been implemented to establish air and water pollution standards. In 1996, the government established the State Environmental Protection Bureau to...
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North Korea as a GHG Emitter (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
The Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) reported that North Korea emitted almost 72 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG), in carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, in 2004. The CO2 emission as a percent of global CO2 production is about 0.3 percent. CO2 emissions of North Korea had been significantly increased by the early 1990’s. Then, the emission sharply decreased; it stabilized in the early twenty-first century. CO2 emission is primarily from the manufacturing industries and construction sector (78.6 percent), as well as the electricity and heat-production sector (15.9 percent). Less than 5 percent of CO2 emission is from transportation and residential use.
Because of its self-reliance policy, North Korea avoids dependency on foreign energy sources, but it heavily relies on its own coal as a primary source of energy. North Korea uses coal with high sulfur content to produce heat and to generate electricity. Therefore, besides CO2, other air pollutant emissions such as SOx are also significant. North Korea’s use of coal is projected to increase fivefold from 2005 to 2020. However, the use of obsolete industrial technology with poor energy efficiency, lack of exhaust gas purification technology, and lack of renewable energy alternatives induces a great deal of GHG emission. North Korea’s inability to deal with this GHG emission, even from its power plants and refineries, has led to...
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Summary and Foresight (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
North Korean environmental degradation results from enforcement of misguided economic policies such as putting heavy industry first and engaging in the parallel development of military strength and the economy. Furthermore, North Korea’s self-reliance ideology rendered the government unable to carry out reforms of its closed economy. However, North Korea has recognized the serious environmental degradation that has taken place over the past several decades. By adjusting its legal and administrative framework, the government has designated environmental protection as a priority over all other productive practices. The government established environmental laws and regulations and improved environment management systems.
North Korea has demonstrated its willingness to engage with the global community through organs such as UNEP to protect its environment. The government also attempts to strengthen cooperation with international societies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in order to overcome economic hardship, to acquire economic support, and to lift the economy. The nation has adopted a pragmatic strategy. The government also emphasizes the need for foreign trade and economic cooperation with other nations. Proclamation of a Free Economic Zone and enactment of the Law on Attraction of Foreign Investment are good examples of the recent changes in North Korea. The country, however, continues its...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Hong, Soon-jick. “Environmental Pollution in North Korea: Another South Korean Burden.” Asian-Pacific Economic Literature 13, no. 2 (November, 1999): 199-214. Describes the causes of pollution in North Korea and discusses approaches that South Korea should take to prevent pollution on the Korean Peninsula.
Park, Song-dong. “The Situation Regarding the North Korean Environment and the Long-Term and Short-Term Tasks.” In Unified Economy. Seoul, South Korea: Hyundai Research Institute, 1997. Discusses South Korea’s long-term and short-term strategies to preserve the environment in North Korea and promote good relations between the two Koreas.
United Nations Environment Programme. DPRK: State of the Environment, 2003. Nairobi, Kenya: Author, 2003. The first comprehensive survey of North Korean environmental issues, including water resources, air and soil pollution, deforestation, and biodiversity.
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