DPR Korea

Project title Sector SCP practice
LEAP FELT Textile and leather industry Eco-labels, Creating Demand for Better Products

Status of SCP policy framework

The DPR of North Korea is located in the east of the Asian continent that has plenty on national resources. Its economy mainly relies on its own technologies and resources.

In the recent decades resource-intensive economic development, population growth and the impacts of climate change have given way to an increased emphasis on environmental protection. Environmental management priorities consist of increasing the efficiency of natural resource use, restoring degraded ecosystems and protecting threatened biodiversity, as well as introducing new technologies and practices that minimize air, land and water pollution. The government believes that mainstreaming environmental considerations into economic development will set the foundation for achieving sustainable development. 

Following are the main areas of government involvement in the field of environmental protection:

Air and Atmosphere

Air quality

The DPR of Korea uses coal for producing the most part of its electricity and as a fuel for industrial processes. This has a great impact on the quality of air, especially at emission intensive sites. Air quality in rural areas is more affected by the combustion of wood for cooking and heating as it is the main fuel used. 

At present (as per “Environment and Climate Change Outlook” DPR of Korea, 2012) monitoring programmes are launched in limited areas to follow the effects of certain pollutants.

Ozone depleting substances

As DPR of Korea is a party to international agreements to reduce the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, it has made inventories of its sources of ozon depleting and has undertaken steps to phase them out with time. During 2006-2010 the National Phase-out Project was in place to eliminate the use of CFCs in the service sector. The country has been focusing on freezing the production of HCFCs by 2013 and reduce their consumption by 2015. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In 2007 DPR of Korea emitted 0,32 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions of that year (“Environment and Climate Change Outlook” DPR of Korea, 2012). The primary source of such emission in the country is combustion of fuel for energy. Industrial processes, agriculture and waste related emissions contribute to the emissions as well. Since the emissions are forecasted to increase in the future, the country hopes to minimize the growth by introducing new technologies and renewable energy, in part by participating in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism or its successor. 


Considerable freshwater resources, abundant rainfall and mountainous nature of the country has allowed DPR of Korea to construct many hydroelectricity dams and irrigation networks.

The main challenge of water supply management is capturing water from summer rains to prevent flooding and using the water during dry months. Reservoirs and damns played an important role in meeting demand for industrial, agricultural and potable water and minimizing flooding.

The quality of water remains a concern in several rivers. Main cause of water pollution comes from discharge of industrial wastewater and untreated sewage, especially in rural areas. Water quality monitoring programme exists for some areas but is not enough to provide accurate information on the quality of water across the country. 

The Law on Environmental Protection (1986) is the document that codifies improving the efficiency of resource use while protecting biodiversity and preventing air, water and soil pollution. 

Environmental protection activities are conducted under the supervision and guidance of the judicial and executive arms of government. 

The Ministry of Land and Environment Protection (MLEP) supports scientific and policy advice as well as implements State’s strategies and policies.

Resource consumption and production

Main Resource Consumption and Resource Efficiency Indicators (2010)

Population (thousands) 24451 (2011)
GDP (million USD) 12385 (2011)
GDP is in USD exchange rate based on year 2005 and deflated.
Source: UNSD database.
Subject Area Total Per person Per USD$ of GDP
Domestic Material Consumption, DMC
(tonnes, tonnes per capita, kgr per 1USD$)
78,971,360.00 3.22 0.006
GHG emissions
(kilotonnes,tonnes per capita, kgr per 1USD$) )
104,116.60 4.25 8.41
Total Primary Energy Supply, TPES
(Petajoules, Gigajoules per capita, Megajoules per 1USD$)
791.19 32.29 6.4
Water Use
(Trillion litres, Kilolitres per capita, Litres per 1USD$)
8.66 353.37 6.99
Subject Area Indicator
Population density 2015 (UNESA 2012 revision), population per sq.km NA
GDP per capita (USD), 2013 WB NA
HDI Rank (2013) UNDP NA
Arable land (hectares per person) WB 2012 0.09
Forest cover in % (2010), UNSTATS 47
Material intensity (2010)UNEP 6.09
Per-capita energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita) 2011, WB 773
Energy intensity (total primary energy consumption per USD of GDP) 2011, EIA 32,036.88
GHG intensity (2010) UNEP 8.03
CO2 emissions (metric tone per capita), 2010, WB 2.9
Number of Middle Class consumers % (2010), ADB NA
Number of people with income < 2USD/day (PPP, USD, %), 2010, ADB NA

Trends in Resource Consumption and Resource Efficiency Indicators (1970-2010)

DE: Domestic Extraction;
MI: Material Intensity of the economy;
MF: Material Footprint.
All other abbreviations explained in the table above

In panel a) PDR Korea GDP grew over the first half of the period 1970 to 2010, and then declined to finish at roughly twice the level it was in 1970. The only other overview indicators to grow significantly was population, and that appeared to level off by 2010, and DMC, which increased by 25%. TPES and GHG emissions finished the period at the same levels as 1970. The profile of DE per capita in panel b) is similar in form to that for DMC, except that it shows a decrease of around 30% over the period. The detail of panel b) further shows that the decreases in DE were concentrated in the non-biomass materials categories. This trend is even stronger in the MF per capita displayed in panel c), where the consumption of non-biomass materials decreases from already low levels in 1990, to extremely low levels by 2010. Comparing panels b) and c) indicates that already low levels of DE would nonetheless grossly overstate the level of local consumption of resources compared to MF, especially in those categories of materials most closely linked to industrial development. Panels d), e) and f) show decreasing material and energy consumption, and GHG emissions, per capita regardless of whether footprints or conventional measures are used. Similarly all six intensity measures decreased, giving across-the board relative decoupling. Conventional measures of material and energy consumption strongly overestimate relative to footprint based measures. 

(Source: UNEP CSIRO Indicators for a Resource Efficient and Green Asia and the Pacific, 2015).

Key references relevant to SCP

UNEP's relevant activities

  • Technical assistance to the Report by the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection of North Korea on the country’s environment and climate change outlook. 

The information in the country profiles herein have been obtained through research with firsthand and secondhand sources. The information presented herein cannot be considered as official policy of governments or other official bodies. The SWITCH-Asia Programme cannot be held responsible for the content of the sites to which it provides links or for the availability of servers or links. Information is being continuously updated in order to maintain an up to date country profile. If you would like to contribute information for this profile or have any further comments, please send an email to: SWITCH-PSC@unep.org


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