There have been reports over the past couple of weeks of forest fires in North Korea, including one fire that came across the border and into the South’s side of the DMZ. NASA has even detected the fires, mainly along the North’s east coast.
While forest fires might be expected to be bad news, especially in a country as hungry and agriculturally-deprived as North Korea, defector reporting from today’s Chosun Ilbo says exactly the opposite. According to the report, the fires are “heaven-sent gifts” that foster the growth of 고사리, a type of fern or bracken eaten by starving North Koreans. The fires also clear areas for future cultivation and reportedly create additional firewood [not exactly sure how that works, but I rarely wander burned-out forests in search of bracken and places to grow my crops].
The desperation runs so strong that people attempting to put out the fires are criticized or blocked. The government and party mainly focus fire prevention efforts on saving trees with writings praising Kim Il-sung, a concern reportedly ignored by most people. Not that putting out the fires is really an option – most firefighting equipment is reportedly so old and in such disrepair that it doesn’t work.
So, forest fires are good, prevention efforts should focus on special Kim Il-sung trees rather than homes or people, and it doesn’t really matter anyway, because none of the firefighting equipment works. North Korea, helping keep the news weird since 1948 …