Located at the far eastern side of Asia, the Korean peninsula is surrounded by water on three sides: the Sea of Japan (or East Sea as South Koreans like to call it) to the east; the Yellow Sea (between Korea and China) to the west; and the South China Sea to the south. To the north of the peninsula is China and Russia. Korea itself is divided by a 237-kilometers 148-mile-long demilitarized zone, or no man's land, that runs roughly along the 38th parallel (the latitude of 38̊ North), with North Korea on the to the north, and South Korea to the south. South Korea occupies 45 percent of Korea; North Korea, 55 percent.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) covers 120,538 square kilometers (46,540 square miles), which is slightly larger than Virginia or Honduras and slightly smaller than Mississippi, Greece or Nicaragua. North Korea border South Korea, China and Russia. The border with Russia is only 18 kilometers long. The Chinese border is 1,352 kilometers (840 miles) long. It is defined mainly by the Yalu and Tumen Rivers. The 237-kilometers DMZ divided North and South Korea. The longest distances are 719 kilometers (447 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest and 371 kilometers (231 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest.

North Korea has traditionally been the Korean Peninsula’s source of coal and raw materials while the south has provided the agricultural land and food. About 22 percent of the country is good for agriculture (compared to 44 percent in the United States) and most of this arable land is in the river valleys and plains between the mountains and on the plains along the Yellow Sea in the west. A lot of this was not so great for agriculture to begin with and has been made worse by North Korea’s less than ideal agricultural policies. Unlike neighboring Japan and China, North Korea experiences few severe earthquakes. The country is well-endowed with hot springs. There are of 124 of them by one count.

Mountains and hills cover about 80 percent of North Korea, particularly in the northern and eastern southeastern parts of the country. Coastal plans run along the western coast. Most Koreans, in both the north and south, live in the western lowlands, one of the most densely populated regions of the world. About half of North Korea is covered by forest. Many of the country's trees were chopped down by the Japanese before World War II. After the Korean War, both Koreas launched aggressive reforestation programs and much of the formerly deforested land now has trees of varying sizes but a lot has also been denuded and eroded by poor agricultural practices..

Land Use and Cover and Population Distribution in North Korea

Land use: agricultural land: 21.8 percent, divided into arable land (19.5 percent), permanent crops (1.9 percent) and permanent pasture (0.4 percent); forest: 46 percent; other: 32. 2 percent (2011 estimate). Irrigated land: 14,600 square kilometers (2012). Arable land is land cultivated for crops like wheat, maize, and rice that are replanted after each harvest. Permanent crops refers to land cultivated for crops like citrus and nuts that are not replanted after each harvest, and includes land under flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; Library of Congress, July 2007]

The population of North Korea is about half the population of South Korea. The population density for all of North Korea is a moderately high. However, because North Korea is so mountainous population density is particularly concentrated in places where it is relatively flat. The Population density is 214 people square kilometer (compared to 2 per square kilometer in Mongolia, 35 per square kilometer in the United States, and 511 in South Korea) [Source: World Population Review]

The most populous areas are in the plains and lowlands in the western provinces, particularly the municipal district of Pyongyang, and around Hungnam and Wonsan in the east. The least populated regions are the mountainous Chagang and Yanggang provinces adjacent to the Chinese border. The are large concentrations of people are in North Pyongan and South Pyongan provinces, in the municipal district of Pyongyang, and in South Hamgyong Province, which includes the Hamhung-Hungnam urban area. In the late 1980s, Eberstadt and Banister calculate the average population density at 167 persons per square kilometer, ranging from 1,178 persons per square kilometer in Pyongyang Municipality to 44 persons per square kilometer in Yanggang Province. By contrast, South Korea had an average population density of 425 persons per square kilometer in 1989. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

About 62.4 percent of North Korea’s population lives in urban areas. Like South Korea, North Korea has experienced significant urban migration since the end of the Korean War. Official statistics reveal that 59.6 percent of the total population was classified as urban in 1987. This figures compares with only 17.7 percent in 1953. It is not entirely clear, however, what standards are used to define urban populations. Eberstadt and Banister suggest that although South Korean statisticians do not classify settlements of under 50,000 as urban, their North Korean counterparts include settlements as small as 20,000 in this category. And, in North Korea, people who engage in agricultural pursuits inside municipalities sometimes are not counted as urban.*

Korean Peninsula

The Korean Peninsula extends for about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southward from the northeast part of the Asian continental landmass. The Japanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu are located some 200 kilometers to the southeast across the Korea Strait; the Shandong Peninsula of China lies 190 kilometers to the west. The west coast of the peninsula is bordered by the Korea Bay to the north and the Yellow Sea to the south; the east coast is bordered by the Sea of Japan (known in Korea as the East Sea). The 8,640- kilometer coastline is highly indented. Some 3,579 islands lie adjacent to the peninsula. Most of them are found along the south and west coasts. The northern land border of the Korean Peninsula is formed by the Yalu and Tumen rivers, which separate Korea from the provinces of Jilin and Liaoning in China. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

At the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided along the thirty-eighth parallel into Soviet and United States occupation zones. With the signing of an armistice marking the end of the Korean War in 1953, the border between North Korea and South Korea became the Demaraction Line, which runs through the middle of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). After the Korean War the DMZ formed the boundary between the two. The DMZ is a heavily guarded, 4,000-meter-wide strip of land that runs along the line of cease-fire, the Demarcation Line, from the east to the west coasts for a distance of 241 kilometers (238 kilometers of that line form the land boundary with North Korea).*

The Korean peninsula is roughly 1,030 kilometers (612 miles) long and 175 kilometers (105 miles) wide at its narrowest point. The total land area of the peninsula, including the islands, is 220,847 square kilometers (85,269 square miles). Some 44.6 percent (98,477 square kilometers) of this total, excluding the area within the DMZ, constitutes the territory of the Republic of Korea. The combined territories of North Korea and South Korea are about the same size as the state of Minnesota. South Korea alone is about the size of Portugal or Hungary, and is slightly larger than the state of Indiana.*

The land border of Korean peninsula is 636 miles long (1,025 kilometers), most of it with China but the last eight kilometers (11 miles) of it at the eastern end, with Russia. The border follows two rivers, the westward-flowing Yalu (Korean Amnok) and the east-flowing Tumen (Korean Duman or Tuman), both of which originate from springs on the slopes of Mount Paektu. Other important rivers, are the Han, the Geum, the Taedong (Daedong), the Nakdong, and the Seomjin.Off the heavily indented 8,690 -kilometers (5,400-mile) -long coast are some 3,420 islands, most of them rocky and uninhabited. The main island group is in the Korean Archipelago in the Yellow Sea. Of the inhabited islands, only about half have a population of more than 100. [Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

The Korean Peninsula and its associated islands lie between 33°06 and 43°01 N and between 124°11 and 131°53 E. It is situated on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate with the Russian Far East (sometimes considered) Siberia in the northeast and Chinese Manchuria to the north. Unlike Japan or the northern provinces of China, the Korean Peninsula is geologically stable. There are no active volcanoes and there have been no strong earthquakes. Historical records, however, describe volcanic activity on Mount Halla during the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392 A.D.).*

Topography and History of the Korean Peninsula

The Korean peninsula is mostly hills and mountains with wide coastal plains in southwest and south. Mount Paektu (Baekdu) — the sacred peak and part of the "Ever-white Mountains" — lies on the northeastern border of China and North Korea. It is 2,744 meters (9,003 feet) high and is the highest peak in Korea. Southward from this mountain mass are the T'aebaek Mountain ranges. This range runs the length of the Korean peninsula, roughly dividing it into a well-defined coastal area on the east and a series of broad valleys to the west. The principal series of ranges runs along the east coast and rises in the northeast. Most rivers are relatively short and many are unnavigable, filled with rapids and waterfalls.[Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

Korea's mountainous terrain has traditionally hindered communication between different parts of the country and created more or less distinct regions within it. Until railroads, highways, air travel, and mass communications began breaking down regional divisions. the mountain barriers were a defining feature of Korean civilization. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Lacking formidable land or sea barriers along its borders and occupying a central position among East Asian nations, the Korean Peninsula has served as a cultural bridge between the mainland and the Japanese archipelago. Korea contributed greatly to the development of Japan by transmitting both Indian Buddhist and Chinese Confucian culture, art, and religion. At the same time, Korea's exposed geographical position left it vulnerable to invasion by its stronger neighbors. When, in the late nineteenth century, British statesman Lord George Curzon described Korea as a "sort of political Tom Tiddler's ground between China, Russia, and Japan," he was describing a situation that had prevailed for several millennia, as would be tragically apparent during the twentieth century. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Early European visitors to Korea remarked that the land resembled "a sea in a heavy gale" because of the large number of successive mountain ranges that crisscross the peninsula. The tallest mountains are in North Korea.The tallest mountain in South Korea is Mount Halla (1,950 meters, 6,398 feet), which is the cone of a volcanic formation constituting Cheju Island. There are three major mountain ranges within South Korea: the T'aebaek, and Sobaek ranges, and the Jiri (Chiri) Massif. *

Location, Size and Boundaries of North Korea

Location of North Korea: Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and South Korea. North Korea has a strategic location between China, South Korea, and Russia, The mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated. Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 127 00 E. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; Library of Congress, July 2007]

Area of North Korea: total: 120,538 square kilometers (46,540 square miles) land:120,408 square kilometers (46,490 square miles); water: 130 square kilometers (50 square miles); Compared with other countries in the world North Korea ranks 100th. North Korea occupies about 55 percent of the total land area of the Korean peninsula. North Korea has no outside dependencies or territories.

Land boundaries of North Korea: total: 1,607 kilometers (999 miles): border countries: 1) China 1352 kilometers (840 miles), 2) South Korea 237 kilometers (147 miles), 3) Russia 18 kilometers (11 miles). Korea is bordered by the Republic of Korea (South Korea) to the south, China to the north and northwest, and Russia to the northeast. The border with South Korea is marked by a 4-kilometer-wide Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The DMZ extends 237 kilometers over land and 3 kilometers over the sea.

Coastline and Maritime claims: Coastline 2,495 kilometers (1550 miles). Maritime Claims: North Korea claims a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles. It also has established a military boundary line of 50 nautical miles from its coast on the Sea of Japan (East Sea) side of the peninsula and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) in which all foreign ships and aircraft without permission from the North Korean government are banned. The west coast is on West Korea Bay and the Yellow Sea (or West Sea, as known to Koreans). The east coast is on the East Korea Bay and what Koreans call the East Sea but which is recognized by the United Nations and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names as the Sea of Japan.

Korea's northern land border is formed by the Yalu (or Amnok) and Tumen rivers, which have their sources in the region around Paektu-san (Mount Paektu or White Head Mountain), an extinct volcano and Korea's highest mountain (2,744 meters). The Yalu River flows into the Yellow Sea, and the Tumen River flows east into the Sea of Japan. The northern border extends for 1,433 kilometers; 1,416 kilometers are shared with the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Liaoning, and the remaining 17 kilometers with Russia. Part of the border with China near Paektu-san has yet to be clearly demarcated. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

DMZ and North Korea’s Border with South Korea

The 1953 armistice agreement concluding the Korean War defined the borders of North and South Korea. The demarcation line serves as the border. It divides the four-kilometers (2.5 mile) -wide Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is a largely uninhabited no man’s land between the two Koreas, which are still technically at war. Running over mostly mountainous land, the DMZ covers about 1,262 square kilometers (487 square miles) and extends 238 kilometers over land and three kilometers over the sea.. The DMZ runs roughly along the 38th parallel (the latitude of 38̊ North). Seoul lies just 48 kilometers (30 miles) south of the DMZ.

The border between North and South Korea is the most heavily fortified border in the world. On the North Korean side are huge batteries of artillery capable of reaching Seoul. The border itself between South Korea and North Korea — which is disputed and exactly in the middle of the DMZ — is called the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). A Civilian Control Zone (CCZ), which unescorted civilians can not enter, extends for five to 20 kilometers (three to 12 miles south) of the South Korean DMZ line. [Source: Tom O’Neill, National Geographic, July 2003]

Rivers, marshes, hills, bays, islands and open sea divides South Korea and North Korea. The North Korean army has 700,000 troops stationed withing 60 kilometers of the border, armed with 13,000 pieces or artillery capable of firing up to 500,000 rounds an hour. In 1999 and 2000 alone, 500 news pieces or artillery were added capable of hitting targets further away. To the south are 550,000 South Korean soldiers and 28,500 American troops. The U.S. Army’s Second Division is the most forward positioned U.S. division in the world. In the early 2000s, it was spread out over 25 camps to prevent it from being overrun quickly. Unlike other U.S. military installations, tanks and artillery are loaded with ammunition at all times, allowing them to counter-attack in seconds. The number of soldiers allowed off base is tightly controlled. [Source: Newsweek]

The DMZ is almost entirely free from human encroachment. As a result, the habitat there is relatively undisturbed and home to rare and endangered species, including Asiatic black bears and the red-crowned crane. Some Amur leopards and Siberian tiger used to live there. The border with North Korea is South Korea’s only land boundary. As an extension of the concept of the land-bound Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea, the Northern Limit Line serves as a maritime boundary established by the United Nations Command in 1954 to ensure access to islands controlled by South Korea north of the thirty-eighth parallel and to maintain a separation between naval forces. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020] Library of Congress, May 2005]

Topography of North Korea

North Korea is made up mostly of hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys. There are wide coastal plains in west and discontinuous coastal plains in east Approximately 80 percent of the land area is made up of mountain ranges. All the mountains on the Korean Peninsula higher than 2,000 meters above sea level are in North Korea. The highest peak, on the northern border with China, is Paektu-san at 2,744 (9003 feet) meters above sea level. The great majority of the population lives in the plains and lowlands.

The land around Paektu-san near the China border is volcanic in origin and includes a basalt lava plateau with elevations of between 1,400 and 2,000 meters above sea level. The Hamgyong Range, located in the extreme northeastern part of the peninsula, has many high peaks including Kwanmo-san at approximately 1,756 meters. Other major ranges include the Nangnim Range, which is located in the north-central part of North Korea and runs in a north-south direction, making communication between the eastern and western parts of the country rather difficult; and the Kangnam Range, which runs along the North Korea-China border. K mgang-san, or Diamond Mountain, (approximately 1,638 meters) in the T'aebaek Range, which extends into South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

The mountain ranges in the northern and eastern parts of North Korea form the watershed for most of its rivers, which run in a westerly direction and empty into the Yellow Sea (Korea Bay). The longest is the Yalu River, which is navigable for 678 of its 790 kilometers. The Tumen River, one of the few major rivers to flow into the Sea of Japan, is the second longest at 521 kilometers but is navigable for only 85 kilometers because of the mountainous topography. The third longest river, the Taedong River, flows through Pyongyang and is navigable for 245 of its 397 kilometers. Lakes tend to be small because of the lack of glacial activity and the stability of the earth's crust in the region.

The mean elevation is 600 meters. The lowest point is 0 meters at the Sea of Japan The highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 meters (9,003 feet). The major mountain ranges are located in the north-central and northeastern sections of North Korea and along the eastern coast. On the eastern coast, the hills drop sharply down to a narrow coastal plain, whereas on the west coast the slope is more gradual, forming broad, level plains. North Korea has no active volcanoes and does not experience severe earthquakes. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; Cities of the World , The Gale Group Inc., 2002]

Flat Areas, Plains and Rolling Terrain of North Korea

For the most part, the plains are small. The most extensive are the Pyongyang and Chaeryng plains, each covering about 500 square kilometers. Because the mountains on the east coast drop abruptly to the sea, the plains are even smaller there than on the west coast. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

The plains of North Korea are important to the nation's economy, although they constitute only about 20 percent of the total area. . The plains contain most of the country's farmlands and urban areas. Most of the plains are alluvial, formed from silt deposited on the banks of flooding rivers. Other plains, such as the Pyongyang peneplain, were formed by thousands of years of erosion from surrounding hills. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography, The Gale Group, Inc., 2003]

Plains areas on the western coast include the Pyongyang peneplain and the Unjon, Anju, Chaeryong, and Yonbaek Plains. The Chaeryong and the Pyongyang are the most extensive, of these, covering an area of about 618 square kilometers (200 square miles). The Yonbaek Plain comprises about 315 square kilometers (120 square miles). The rest of the plains regions each cover about 207 square kilometers (80 square miles). The relative small sizes of these area indicates the challenges that North Korea faces in regards to agriculture.

Mountains of North Korea

Mountains and uplands cover 80 percent of North Korea as we said before. The major mountain ranges form a crisscross pattern extending from northeast to southwest and northwest to southeast. The Mach'ol Range extends from the vicinity of Paektu-san on the Chinese border in a southeasterly direction toward the eastern coast. This range has peaks of over 1,981 meters (6,500 feet) in altitude. At the summit of 2,744-meter (9,003-feet) Paektu-san is the crater lake — Cho'onji (Heavenly Lake).

The land around Paektu-san near the China border is volcanic in origin and includes a basalt lava plateau with elevations of between 1,400 and 2,000 meters above sea level. The Hamgyong Range, located in the extreme northeastern part of the peninsula, has many high peaks including Kwanmo-san at approximately 1,756 meters (5761 feet). Other major ranges include the Nangnim Range, which is located in the north-central part of North Korea and runs in a north-south direction, making communication between the eastern and western parts of the country rather difficult; and the Kangnam Range, which runs along the North Korea-China border. K mgang-san, or Diamond Mountain, (approximately 1,638 meters, 5374 feet) in the T'aebaek Range, which extends into South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

Running northeasterly from the center of the Mach'ol Range toward the Tumen River valley is the Hamgyong Range, which also has a number of peaks over 1,981 meters (6,500 feet), including Kwanmo-bon (Mount Kwanmo) at 2,540 meters (8,334 feet). The southwest extension of the Hamgyong Range is known as the Pujollyong Range. Running from north to south and marking the drainage divide for the eastern and western halves of the country is the Nangnim Range, averaging 1,499 meters (4,920 feet). To the west of the Nangnim Range are two less prominent ranges, the Myohyang and (in the center of the country) the Puktae, both of which reach heights of 500 to 1,000 meters (1,640 to 3,280 feet). Running in a southwestern direction from the Nangnim Range along the Yalu River (which forms the border with China) is the Kangnam Range, the name of which means "south of the river." [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

There are extensive coniferous forest located in the mountainous interior, especially in the north, with pine, spruce, fir, and cedar trees. The T'aebaek Range is often called the "backbone of Korea." It rises south of Wonsan and extends down the eastern side of the peninsula. Most of this range is in South Korea but the short section in North Korea contained scenic Kumgangsan ("Diamond Mountains") — regarded by many as the most beautiful mountain area in North and South Korea. It makes up the core of North Korea's largest national park. Not far from the Sea of Japan, granite mountains here boast vertical sheer walls, deep canyons, and spectacular waterfalls. The area east of the Hamgyong and Pujollyong embraces of short, parallel ridges that extend from these mountains to the Sea of Japan, creating a series of isolated valleys accessible only by rail lines branching off from the main coastal track. West of the T'aebaek Range, the terrain of central North Korea is characterized by a series of lesser ranges and hills that gradually level off into plains along the western coast. . [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography, The Gale Group, Inc., 2003]

To the west of the Hamgyong and Pujollyong ranges is Kaema Plateau. Sometimes called the "roof of Korea," it is a heavily forested basaltic tableland with relatively low elevation, averaging 1,000 to 1,500 meters (3,280 to 4,950 feet). In some of the limestone mountain areas are , there are caves. One of the best-known — T'ongnyonggul — is located near Yongbyon on the southern side of the Ch'ongch'on River. It is about five 5 kilometers long and has many chambers. The largest ones are 150 meters wide and 50 meters high.

Main Rivers and Lakes of North Korea

North Korea’s longest river is the Yalu (Amnok) River (790 kilometers, 490 miles). It flows west into northern part of the Yellow Sea and is navigable for 678 kilometers. The Tumen (Tuman) River is the second longest (521 kilometers, 323 miles). It flows into Japan Sea and is only navigable for 81 kilometers. The Yalu and Tumen form a good part of the border between North Korea and China. The third longest river is the Taedong (397 kilometers, 246 miles) is navigable for 245 kilometers and flows through Pyongyang and into the southern part of Yellow Sea. The Ch'ongch'on River flows in the valley between the Kangnam and the Myohyang mountain ranges.

Most rivers are relatively short and many are unnavigable, with many rapids and some waterfalls The mountain ranges in the northern and eastern parts of North Korea form the watershed for most of its rivers, which run in a westerly direction and empty into the Yellow Sea (Korea Bay). These rivers include the Yalu, Taedong, Chongch'on, Imjin, and the Yesong. The Tumen River is one of the few major rivers to flow into the Sea of Japan. The Songchon River is another one. Rivers on the east coast tend to be swift-flowing and short. are large. North Korea's rivers flow strongly during the summer rainy season and in the spring when the winter snow melts. Their flow drops considerably during the dry winter months. [Source: Cities of the World , The Gale Group Inc., 2002; Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography, The Gale Group, Inc., 2003]

The Yalu flows from Paektu-san to the Yellow Sea. It cuts through rocky gorges and thus its alluvial plains are less extensive than its size suggests. Oceangoing vessels can dock at Sinuiju and small watercraft can travel upstream as far as Hyesan. Although it is important for transportation and irrigation, the Yalu's main value lies in its hydroelectric power potential. Dams have been built on the Yalu and four of its tributaries, the Changjin, Hoch'on, Pujon, and Tongno Rivers. These dams provide both water and hydroelectric power. They also are a source of power shortages when their flows shrink.

Lakes tend to be small because of the lack of glacial activity and the stability of the earth's crust in the region. The largest natural inland body of water in North Korea is Kwangpo, which is actually a salt lagoon that covers an area of about 13 square kilometers (5 square miles). The Changjin Reservoir, an artificial lake, is one of the nation's biggest lakes and a primary water source. It is located on the Changjin River.

Provinces and Main Cities of North Korea

Administrative divisions: 9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and three cities (si, singular and plural). A) The provinces are Chagang, Hambuk (North Hamgyong), Hamnam (South Hamgyong), Hwangbuk (North Hwanghae), Hwangnam (South Hwanghae), Kangwon, P'yongbuk (North Pyongan), P'yongnam (South Pyongan), Ryanggang B) The major cities are Nampo, Pyongyang and Rason Nampo is sometimes designated as a metropolitan city. Pyongyang is a directly controlled city (directly controlled by the central government). Rason is a city. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

The largest cities in North Korean are: Pyongyang — 3,222,000; Hamhung — 559,056; Namp'o — 455,000; Sunch'on — 437,000; Hungnam — 346,082; Kaesong — 338,155; Wonsan — 329,207; Chongjin — 327,000; Sariwon — 310,100; Sinuiju — 288,112; Haeju — 222,396; Kanggye — 209,530; Hyesan — 192,680; Songnim — 152,425; Manp'o — 116,760; P'yongsong — 100,000. [Source: 2021 population,]

In 1987 North Korea's largest cities were Pyongyang, with approximately 2.3 million inhabitants; Hamhung, 701,000;Chongjin, 520,000; Nampo, 370,000; Sunchin, 356,000; and Siniju, 289,000. In 1987 the total national population living in Pyongyang was 11.5 percent. The government also restricts and monitors migration to cities and ensures a relatively balanced distribution of population in provincial centers in relation to Pyongyang.

The capital city, Pyongyang, is situated in the western part of the country, while the other major cities of Hungnam, Ch'ongjin, and Nampo are in the east, northeast, and west, respectively. At the founding of North Korea in 1948, Pyongyang was the only city located in the northern half of the peninsula that had a notable historical heritage going back to the premodern era. Kaesong, which once was an ancient capital of the Koryo kingdom (935–1392), located in the middle of the peninsula, became incorporated into North Korean territory only after the 1953 truce agreement that ended the Korean War. Kaesong, Pyongyang, and Nampo, a new industrial city, are special cities with independent juridical authorities. .

Oceans, Seas and Islands

The Sea of Japan (known to South Koreans as the East Sea) is an enclosed arm of the Pacific Ocean. It lies to the east of North Korea and is very deep. Its coastal waters average about 1,676 meters (5,500 feet). Korea Bay, off the western coast, is an inlet of the Yellow Sea, which is also an arm of the Pacific Ocean. The bay is shallow and has a huge tidal range of 6 to 12 meters (20 to 40 feet). [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography, The Gale Group, Inc., 2003]

The main port on the west coast is Nampo. It is situated at the mouth of the Taedong River south of Sojoson Bay and is a center for both international and domestic trade. Further south are two more bays: Taedong Bay, which cuts into the coast south of Changsan Cape, and Haeju Bay, which is part of larger Kyonggi Bay. The east coast has two major inlets: the large Tongjoson Bay, and the smaller Yonghung Bay. In the east, steep mountains drop near the Sea of Japan. The coastline here is relatively straight, with few offshore islands. Off the coast are both warm and cold currents. There is a wide variety of marine life and good fishing. The coastal region is often shrouded in dense fog.

The western coast along the Korea Bay is highly indented and irregular, and freckled with numerous of small offshore islands. Vast tidal flats are exposed during low tide. Some of these have been reclaimed using sea walls and turned into agricultural land. Few of the hundreds of small islands off the western coast of North Korea are inhabited. Many of the islands near the border of North and South Korea are contested by the two countries and a few small battles and skirmishes have taken place here since the Korean War.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, Daily NK, NK News, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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