MVP Sustainability Map

North Korea


Sustainability Grade




Sustainable Population

68.8 %

Contraception Use


Species Threatened

0.44 %

Population Growth


GDP Per Capita

Country Comments

Even as an economically destitute and isolated country whose majority of citizens consume very little and live in desperate poverty, North Korea’s total population uses more renewable resources than the country can generate and support.

Scientific American reported people cut down trees on a massive scale, both for fuel but also to clear room for farming. The government of North Korea acknowledges that forest cover shrank sharply during a famine in the 1990s, going from 8.3 million hectares to 7.6 million hectares in just a few years. And a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Gyeonggi Research Institute drew on satellite data collected to show that forests in the North are becoming more fragmented, with less contiguous tree cover. That’s bad for North Korea’s wildlife, and it leads to depleted topsoil that’s unable to do the work of feeding North Korea’s population. The lack of ground cover means there are no roots to anchor soil in place and keep it from running off into rivers and streams during extreme weather events. (1)

Human Rights Watch reported the government also fails to protect or promote the rights of numerous at-risk groups, including women, children, and people with disabilities. Women face high levels of discrimination and sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, and constant exposure to government-endorsed stereotyped gender roles. State authorities engage in abuses against women and systematically fail to offer protection or justice to women and girls experiencing abuses. (2)

Even with such abuses and loss of civil liberties, contraception use for the country is relatively high leading to a declining fertility rate that for the past two decades has been just below replacement, slowing the country’s overall population growth which may eventually reverse and put less pressure on natural resources bringing the country closer to sustainability.