Facts About the Korean Peninsula (Geography)

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Facts about the Korean Peninsula. The geography of The Korean Peninsula incorporating North and South Korea.Once a unified nation, after the Korean war it became two seperate nations of North Kore and South Korea. The Korean Peninsula facts.

The Korean peninsula extends south for 1,100 km from the south east of continental Asia.

It has a total land area of 223,170 sq km (about the size of the U.K.) and an 8,640 km irregular coastline with the Sea of Japan to the east and the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay to the west.

The north of the peninsula has two natural borders with its neighbours, the River Amnok with-the-Peoples-Republic-of-China  and the River Duman with the -Russian-federation.


Once a unified nation, the peninsula is now divided by a 238 km border at the 38th parallel, now know as the de-militarised zone (DMZ) consisting of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the north and the Republic of Korea to the south.

The peninsula as a whole was governed by the Korean Empire until 1905 when it became annexed to Japan following the Russo - Japanese war of 1905.

In August 1945, after the end of W.W. II, as part of the ' spoils of war package' following the ' surrender of Japan treaty ', the Soviet Army established a civil authority to rule the country, until a regime friendly to the U.S.S.R could be established. It became divided into Soviet (the north) and American (the south) occupied zones , with Soviets agreeing on surrender and disarmament of Japanese troops north of the 38th parallel and U.S troops accepting surrender and disarmament of the Japanese to the south.

After the departure of the Soviets in 1948, North Korea refused to sign a U.N supervised election, which in turn led to the creation of separate governments of the two occupied zones.

The two super powers had established governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, leading to current ideologies and its division today.

Both states were claiming sovereignty of the peninsula as a whole, which then led to the Korean war of 1950.

An armistice stopped the fighting in 1953, but not the division, as a peace treaty was never signed, making the two countries still officially at war to this day.


                           KOREAN PENINSULA

North Korea is now governed by a single party state under a unified front led by the Korean Workers Party, considered to be a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship, politically made up of 9 provinces and 1 municipality.

Food rations, housing, healthcare, education and a national mandated dress code are all nationalised and offered free by the state.

The North now consists of an area of 122,762 sq km and has a population of about 24 million.

South Korea is now governed by a liberal, republican democracy with a president at its head, with a major economy which is the fourth largest in Asia and the fifteenth largest in the world.

It is a member of the U.N, WTO, OECD, G-20, APEC, NATO and the East Asia Summit.

It now consists of an area of 99,461 sq km, politically made up of 9 provinces and 6 municipalities and has a population of 48 million.


                                               Lake Samilpo, Kumgangsan, North Korea


70 % of the peninsula is low mountainous terrain with its highest elevation in the north at Mount Baekdu, at 2,744m.

Fertile plains and valleys lie in between these small ranges where rice, barley and Korean vegetables are grown for the home market.

South Korea depends heavily on imported crops for its nation's food, whereas North Korea has a more problematic system. Only 22,000 sq km of the North is arable, with most of its agriculture centred on the coast. This is blighted by floods and poor farming methods.

For years the feeding of the North Korean people has been a cause for concern in the developed world, with famine being its biggest killer until the turn of this century. Widespread food shortages have forced the government to now begin trade with China  and the South in search of a way to feed its population.

3,579 islands lie to the south and west of the peninsula, most of which are small and uninhabited. The largest island is Jeju, at 1,845 sq km, lying some 100 km from the south coast. Jeju is the site of South Korea's highest elevation, an extinct volcano some 1,950 m high called Hallosan.

Hot springs are widespread along the peninsula; indicative of volcanic activity in it's not too distant past.

Crater lakes also exist at the volcanic Mount Baekdu, the peninsula's highest peak at 9,003 feet, in North Korea and Hallosan in South Korea.

The peninsula is home to over 3,000 plant species, of which 500 are endemic.

South Korea is home to 20 nature reserves and wildlife parks, acting as sanctuaries for tiger, wild boar and several wild bird populations.

In North Korea, tiger, lynx and the rare Sable and Northern Pika deer are to be found in the north eastern mountain ranges.

The peninsula's longest river is the River Amnok at 491 miles long, situated between North Korea and its border with China.



Climatically the peninsula experiences monsoons in the summer months and typhoons in the autumn months.

Winters tend to be cold and dry, and summers warm and wet. Precipitation ranges from 600mm per annum in the north to 1,500 mm per annum in the south.

Temperatures range from warm temperate in the south, to temperate in the interior, to cold temperate in the north.



Buddhism is the religion most associated with Korea. In the north the constitution provides religious freedom but the government discourages organised religious activity.13.7 million of the population considers themselves Buddhist, and although there are over 300 Buddhist temples in the country, they are not used for religious purposes.

Christianity was bought into the country during the occupation years, but the government considers it to be connected with the west and therefore discouraged.

In South Korea religion plays a larger part in the people's lives with 34 % of people practising the Buddhist faith and 31 % practising the Christian faith. 46 % of the population consider themselves non believers.



Healthcare in South Korea is considered one of the most advanced systems in the world, surpassing the systems of many U.S states and E.U nations.

Healthcare in the North however, although advanced and well equipped is selective in its patronage with party and state elite and military personnel receiving far better care than the average citizen.

Food shortage in the North has led to chronic malnutrition, with famine being amongst the biggest cause of death in the country.


Friendship Bridge, between Dandgong, China and Sinuiju, North Korea


Infrastructure throughout the peninsular is modern and well managed, with the South having a much more modern edge than that of the North.

Cities within the peninsular are modern and well equipped with good urban infrastructure, with the South having the largest and most populated cities.

The capital of the North is Pyongyang with a population of 2,724,700 living in an area of 2,000 sq km.

Pyongyang is the oldest city on the peninsula. It is a walled city that sits on the banks of the river Taedong that was founded in 1122.

The city suffered mass destruction during the 1950-3 war with the South, but was extensively re-built in the 1960's with help from the Russians and Chinese, into a modern, attractive city with parks and gardens, modern office and apartment blocks, museums, universities and factories.

The city is served by 53 km tram system, a 22.5 km metro, a 150km trolley bus system and Sunan Capital International Airport.

The international flag carrier is Air Koryo with regular flights to Beijing in the-peoples-republic-of-china and Vladivostok in the-russian-federation .

The country is served by a good road network although there are few private cars.

There is a modern and regular national and international rail network.

Modern factories, schools and hospitals are evident in the North.

Communications with the rest of the world are government regulated, of poor quality and expensive.

unemployment is rare, but wages poor with the average unskilled labourer earning about ten dollars a month and government officials earning around 35 dollars a month.


                     Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, Seoul

                              (Image by Gu Gyobok)

Seoul is the capital of South Korea. Located on the banks of the River Han there has been a settlement here for over 600 years.

Today it has an area of 605 sq km with a population of over 10 million making it the second most populace city in the world.

Seoul is the considered to be the most technically advanced city in the world, it is an Alpha World City ranked 9th in the Global Cities Index and has been voted World Design Capital for 2010.

The city is served by Incheon International Airport, which has been ranked number one in the world by the A.C.I. (airports council international) continuously since 2005.

Its metro system is the third largest in the world.

Its communication systems, including T.V and radio are the most advanced digital systems used in the world, with its wireless internet surpassing any other system to date, in the rest of the world.


                                                       A Korean keyboard in Hangul script


Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea. The classification of the language is somewhat complex with linguists debating as to whether it is a member of the Altaic language group or a language isolate.

Modern Korean is written in Hangul script which has its roots in the 15th century. It is a phonemic script organised by syllabic blocks. The language is made up of 24 Hangul letters, 14 consonants and 10 vowels. In South Korea Hanja (Mandarin) and some Latin letters have been introduced into the script.

                                                          Regions of South Korea


                                                            Regions of North Korea


North Korea is divided into fourteen regions, twelve provinces and two municipalities. Below is the key to the above map of North Korea.

1.) Municipality of Pyongyang.

2.) Municipality of Rason.

3.) Kaesong.

4.) Kumgangsan.

5.) Sinuiju.

6.) Chagang.

7.) North Pyongan

8.) South Pyongan.

9.) South Hwanghae.

10.) North Hwanghae.

11.) Kangwon.

12.) South Hamgyong

13.) North Hamgyong

14.) Ryanggang

Currency: Won

Time Zone: UTC +9

Call Code North: 850

Call Code South: 82

Int TLD North: .kp

Int TLD South: .kr 

                               For more information about Korea by the same author

Information about Pyongyangpyongyang-capital-of-north-korea

Information about Seoulseoul-capital-of-south-korea                                                                                                                                    

                                                                 © D.B.Bellamy.January.2010.

            All Images and maps sourced from various Korea related articles courtesy of wikimedia commons.