Visitors to Naeho-ri of Pyoksong County, South Hwanghae Province, can see the mountains covered with thick forests of pine-nut, Changsong larch and northern pitch pine trees.
A large quantity of wild fruits and timber are gathered and produced here every year, making contributions to the people’s life in the province as well as the county. The thickly-wooded forests are unthinkable apart from the painstaking efforts of Ri Myong Bom (pictured), forest ranger in charge.
After serving the Korean People’s Army for decades, he was discharged and allowed to go to his native village in Anbyon County, Kangwon Province. But he volunteered to work as a forest ranger in Pyoksong.
Referring to his motive for doing it, he said: “One day 16 years back I came to have a talk with a forest ranger, an old acquaintance of mine. Hearing me saying that I was demobbed and would go to my native village, he felt very sorry and told me that as he got older, he felt it harder to go up and down the mountain paths. And he hoped that demobbed officers like me would play a part in the field.”
At that time Ri looked over the surrounding mountains from a fresh point of view, he recalled.
During the military service he, together with the soldiers, built a tree nursery and planted and grew many trees in the mountains around the barracks, but there still remained some traces of the Arduous March when the mountains were left bare.
He did not know why, but they brought painful recollection to him and it came to him that he could not disregard the advice of the forest ranger.
He made up his mind to follow in his footsteps and devote his whole life to covering all the mountains in Naeho-ri as well as those around the barracks in thick forests.
After he was appointed as a forest ranger in charge of Naeho-ri of the Pyoksong County forest management station, he did everything vigorously and audaciously in an army style.
He had to walk a long way across the mountains some days to grasp the constitution of forests and topography of the area in charge and acquired knowledge of forestry, ranging from the production of tree saplings to the planting of forest and anti-blight measures at night.
He also organized a mountain workteam to build a new several hectare wide tree nursery and plant forest continuously every year.
When the whole country turned out for the reforestation campaign, he reclaimed a mountain slope covered with arrowroot vines and shrubs to plant more trees in the surrounding mountain areas.
“There was an empty plot of over 20 square metres covered with rocks at a mountain peak. The ranger called for planting larch trees there and we all workteam members removed stones, carried soil and manure and planted trees nine times repeatedly,” said a member of the workteam.
His painstaking efforts bore fruit: the mountains in Naeho-ri grew greener with the passage of time and the workteam made its name as a group with a high capacity in every work.
“In fact, it is not easy to keep a clear conscience in the mountain where there is no one to look at me. I was motivated by the self-consciousness that every tree in my charge is the valuable wealth of the country to be handed down through generations to come and I am responsible for it,” Ri recalled.
A few years ago he was awarded the title of Merited Forest Ranger.
“Patriotism is not an abstract concept. It begins at home, from the tree we plant, I think. The green forests stretching far and wide beyond the horizon in Naeho-ri is just like a mirror which reflects his feeling of patriotism,” said Ri Won Jae, director of the county forest management station.