VENERATED in art and poetry, Korea’s verdant mountain forests hold a special place in Korean people’s hearts. Like their political systems and economies, however, forest fortunes in North and South Korea have gone in very different directions since the country’s division more than 70 years ago.

If you stand at the observation post at Paju, on the heavily militarized border between the two Koreas, and compare the views, the contrast is striking. The South is characterized by densely and attractively forested hillslopes. But across the DMZ, if you look past the statue of North Korea’s founding father Kim Il Sung and the moribund Kaesong Industrial Complex (a joint economic project both Koreas hope to revive), severely denuded slopes stand desolate in the summer haze.

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Flickr user The Joint Staff

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