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(LEAD) S. Korea considering building tree nurseries in areas bordering N.K.

All Headlines 11:18 January 09, 2017

(ATTN: TRIMS headline; ADDS more info in paras 3-4)

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is considering setting up small tree nurseries in areas bordering North Korea in a bid to support the North's forestation, a government official said Monday.

Seoul's possible move is aimed at promoting inter-Korean cooperation in forestation as North Korea has recklessly cut down trees to increase its farmland. Such a move has made the country susceptible to natural disasters such as floods.

"The idea was floated as South Korea needs time to help North Korea's forestation from the long-term perspective," Jeong Joon-hee, spokesman at Seoul's unification ministry, told a regular press briefing. "We are in discussion with relevant provincial agencies for the project."

The move is needed, as it would take one to three years for the North to produce tree seedlings necessary for forestation, said another official at the ministry.

The project is part of the ministry's 2017 policy plans to build common ground for inter-Korean unification including making an online dictionary for the Korean language and building a digital archive for a joint project to excavate an ancient palace site.

The ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said it also plans to seek to hold an international conference in May on a possible volcanic eruption at Mount Paekdu, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula.

The mountain has been dormant since its last eruption in 1903, but some experts warned that it is close enough to the North's nuclear test site in Punggye-ri to have been affected by the man-made seismic activity associated with the underground explosions.

"Concerns over volcanic eruptions at Mount Paekdu are growing after North Korea's nuclear tests and the latest quakes in South Korea's southern city of Gyeongju," said a government official.

The government also said that it will cooperate with the United Nations Population Fund to help the agency conduct a census in North Korea next year. The U.N. agency is set to carry out the census on the North, the first time it has done so since 2008.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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