Sangmin Nam


Credited with transforming North Korea into a green and livable people's land due to his environmental vision, Kim Il Sung often pointed out serious environmental degradation, such as air pollution in industrial cities, water pollution, and deforestation. Eventually, the leadership turned to laws for better implementation of environmental protection. In explaining this law-making process, this Essay first discusses the understanding and interpretation of the environment in the DPRK. It is critical to discuss North Korean leaders' perceptions of the environment because their interpretation precedes the decisions and laws of the Cabinet and the Korean Workers' Party. After discussing the failings of environmental policy statements, this Essay charts the development of DPRK environmental law, beginning with the Land Law of 1977 and the Environmental Protection Law of 1986. It moves on to cover subsequent major environmental legislation like the Forest Law, the amended Environmental Protection Law, and the Law on National Land Planning along with a brief synopsis of environmental provisions found in foreign investment laws. Unfortunately, it is not possible to analyze the reality of legal enforcement of these environmental laws since no quantitative and qualitative data on this subject are available. Nevertheless, the legal texts are worth exploring to gain a clearer understanding of the policy intentions of the DPRK leadership in environmental governance. This Essay concludes that DPRK environmental law developed as a response to a combination of factors: the inefficacy of environmental policy statements alone, the worsening of environmental conditions, and the new legal priority of the DPRK leadership under the 1992 Constitution to perfect the socialist legal system.