Why Does North Korea Have The Smallest Ecological Footprint

Deforestation in North Korea

North Korea holds the smallest ecological footprint of any country; the total amount of resources a citizen of North Korea uses is five times lower than an average citizen from the rest of the world. North Korea’s low ecological footprint is primarily due to its lack of industrial development with only 8% of its land being urbanized according to Global Footprint Network or GFN. This is because the government has prioritized environmental protection over economic development by implementing various ecological policies that protect the country’s forests and limit the use of natural resources.

One of the main environmental policies of North Korea is its ban on deforestation. After the Korean War, the country had a lot of areas affected by deforestation due to logging. To prevent further deforestation, the government has implemented a ban on logging since the late 1950s. The ban has been successful in maintaining North Korea’s forests and has allowed them to stay at their current levels of 64% of the total land area, a higher rate than some European countries.

The government also has created strong protections for the country’s wetlands and coral reefs. North Korea has a total of 62.6 million hectares of wetlands, with more than 300 marine protected areas. These areas are a crucial part of the country’s ecological balance, providing food for a number of species and aiding in controlling soil erosion. The government has also created many nature reserves throughout the country to protect rare and endangered species. These measures help to limit the environmental impact of human activities in North Korea, thereby contributing to the country’s low ecological footprint.

Alternative energy sources

In addition to its environmental policies, North Korea has also implemented a variety of measures to reduce energy consumption. The country relies heavily on renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity and solar power, which account for roughly 80% of its energy scale. Along with these measures, the government has also taken steps to increase energy efficiency, such as discouraging the use of inefficient appliances and encouraging the use of energy-saving technologies. These measures have contributed to a 30% reduction in the country’s energy consumption since 1990.

Furthermore, the North Korean government has also taken steps to reduce its carbon emissions. The country has one of the lowest percentages of car ownership in the world and has even replaced some public transportation with bicycle systems in some major cities. The government also encourages its citizens to avoid resource-intensive activities, such as meat consumption or large scale agriculture. These measures have led to a reduction in per capita carbon emissions, making North Korea’s environmental footprint one of the smallest in the world.

Environmental awareness

An important factor contributing to North Korea’s success in preserving its environment is its focus on education. The North Korean government has a strong focus on education and promotes environmental awareness from a young age. For example, school textbooks emphasize the importance of conservation and explain the consequences of misusing natural resources. The country also has a number of environmental organizations and runs campaigns to promote its ecological policies.

The government has also taken steps to improve public understanding of the environment. For example, it organizes publicity campaigns and educates people about waste management and ways to reduce their environmental impact. Along with this, the government has also taken steps to ensure that its citizens are informed of any environmental changes in the country, such as increased deforestation or an increase in water contamination.

As a result of its environmental policies, North Korea has achieved one of the world’s lowest ecological footprints. The government’s focus on environmental protection and education, combined with its investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, has helped it to maintain a low ecological footprint.

International sanctions

Despite its success in reducing its environmental footprint, North Korea faces a number of challenges in its effort to protect its environment and maintain a low ecological footprint. One of the most significant issues is the international sanctions that have been imposed on the country due to its nuclear weapons program. These sanctions have severely reduced the country’s access to international markets and have hampered its access to foreign aid for environmental projects.

Furthermore, the country’s poor economic situation has had a huge impact on its environment. Despite the government’s efforts to reduce energy consumption and promote renewable energy, North Korea’s energy production is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, causing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to remain high. This has had a number of negative impacts on the country’s environment and has led to the destruction of many of its forests, wetlands, and coral reefs.

Natural disasters

North Korea is also prone to a variety of natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, and typhoons. These disasters can have a devastating impact on the country’s environment and have contributed to a decline in the number of forests and marine ecosystems. Droughts can lead to soil erosion and desertification, while floods can cause contamination of waterways, damage to agricultural land, and the spread of water-borne diseases.

The government has taken steps to reduce the impact of natural disasters by investing in infrastructure and emergency preparedness plans. However, these measures may not be enough as the devastation caused by disasters can be severe. Furthermore, the country’s ability to respond to disasters is limited due to a lack of resources, making it difficult to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on North Korea’s environment.


North Korea holds the smallest ecological footprint of any country, largely thanks to its environmental protection policies, investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and its focus on environmental education. Despite its successes, the country has a number of challenges to facing, such as sanctions, a poor economic situation, and natural disasters. It is still uncertain if the North Korean government will be able to maintain its small ecological footprint in the face of these challenges.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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