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North Korea

 
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North Korea

THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

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Figure 3. Topography and Drainage, 1992

The Korean Peninsula extends for about 1,000 kilometers southward from the northeast Asian continental landmass. The main Japanese islands of Honsh and Ky sh are located some 200 kilometers to the southeast across the Tsushima Strait, the southeast part of the Korea Strait; China's Shandong Peninsula lies 190 kilometers to the west (see fig. 2). Japan's Tsushima Island lies between the peninsula's southeast coast and Ky sh . The Korean Peninsula's west coast is bordered by the Yellow Sea (or Korea Bay as it is called in North Korea). The east coast is bordered by the Sea of Japan (known in Korea as the East Sea; North Korean sources sometimes refer to the Yellow and Japan seas as the West and East seas of Korea, respectively). The 8,460 kilometer coastline of Korea is highly irregular, with North Korea's half of the peninsula having 2,495 kilometers of coastline. Some 3,579 islands lie adjacent to the Korean Peninsula, mostly along the south and west coasts.

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.

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 (see Glossary), which runs through the middle of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ--see Glossary). This heavily guarded, 4,000-meter-wide strip of land runs east and west along the line of cease-fire for a distance of 241 kilometers (238 kilometers of that line form the land boundary with South Korea). The North Korean government claims territorial waters extending twelve nautical miles from shore. It also claims an exclusive economic zone 200 nautical miles from shore. In addition, a maritime military boundary that lies fifty nautical miles offshore in the Sea of Japan and 200 nautical miles offshore in the Yellow Sea demarcates the waters and airspace into which foreign ships and planes are prohibited from entering without permission.

The total land area of the Korean Peninsula, including islands, is 220,847 square kilometers, of which 55 percent, or 120,410 square kilometers, constitutes the territory of North Korea. The combined territories of North and South Korea are about the same size as the United Kingdom or the state of Minnesota. North Korea alone is about the size of the state of New York or Louisiana.

Data as of June 1993

North Korea - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • THE SOCIETY AND ITS ENVIRONMENT


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