It may not be a nation famed for its eco-credentials. But North Korea is reportedly developing large quantities of algae in a bid to counter the impact of sanctions.
Pyongyang’s algae industry is currently being cultivated as a “strategic resource” which will help mitigate the negative effect of sanctions, according to analysts from the website 38 North.
North Korea has operated research facilities, including open ponds and aquaculture systems, for the past nine years, although their activities have reportedly accelerated recently.
“A new algal research facility just outside of Wonsan, North Korea, suggests growing interest in developing algae as a strategic resource to diversify sources of energy supplies and improve agricultural production, which could over time reduce the country’s vulnerability to sanctions,” reports 38 North.
North Korea is increasingly under pressure due to a growing list of sanctions in response to its nuclear and missile development programme.
While the concept of self-reliance – known as Juche – is integral to North Korean ideology, the state has long been dependent on overseas imports of fuel and food for its survival.
Its most high-profile trading partner China, upon whom North Korea relies for almost all its energy supplies, last month announced plans to limit exports of refined petroleum to 2 million barrels a year from January.
The report by 38 North highlighted how algae has “more strategic value than just oil” and is also a useful tool in fighting famine in a country long suffering from food shortages, due to its protein and fatty acid content.
It adds: “A population that suffers from high levels of hunger and poverty will often do whatever it takes to ease outside pressure and thwart further attempts at isolation.
“It is not surprising, therefore, that the North Korean government is developing thousands of rural open ponds producing algae and bigger and more sophisticated sites whose purpose increasingly looks like algae production.”