The Korean Peninsula extends southward from the
northeastern part of the Asian continent between
33 and 43 North Latitude and 124 and 132 degree
East Longitude. The standard meridian of the peninsula
is 135, nine hours ahead of GMT.
The Amnok and Tumen Rivers border both China
and Russia to the north, and Japan is just across
the East Sea. Since 1945, as a by-product of the
Cold War, the peninsula has been divided at 38
North Latitude into the capitalist Republic of
Korea (ROK), or South Korea, and the communist
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, more commonly
known as North Korea.
Areas, Topography and geology
The total area of the peninsula is 222,196 km2,
similar in size to that of U.K, New Zealand, or
Romania. South Korea possesses 99,434 km2 or 45%
of the total land mass, and North Korea 122,762
km2, the remaining 55%.
About 70% of the land is mountainous, mainly
to the north and east. Along the southern and
western coasts the mountains descend gradually
towards broad coastal plains. Most of the rivers
have their tributaries on the north and east sides,
and flow into the Yellow and South Seas. Concentrated
for the most part off the southern coast are upwards
of 3,200 islands of various sizes that provide
scenery unparalleled in the world.
The eastern coast of the peninsula runs directly
along the skirt of the steep mountain slope range,
while the western and southern coast have curved
shapes and have wide alluvial plains in places.
It is presumed that this asymmetrical topography
was caused by tilting movements, subsidence in
the western coast and upheaval in the eastern
coast, and thus, the ridge line of the watershed
runs on the eastern side of the peninsula.
In general, rivers running to the eastern coast
are short in their length and steep in their riverbed
gradients. Long stretching rivers with gentle
gradients such as the Han river, the Keum river,
the Nakdong river and the Seomjin river flow into
the Yellow and South Seas in Korea.
Population and Land Use
Koreans, like many other Asian peoples, are descendants
of Mongolian Tungus stock. They differ from the
neighboring Japanese and Chinese, however, in that
Koreans are a homogeneous ethnic group with their
own language, culture, and customs.
Korean people are characterized by their generosity,
warmth, and kindness, and are renowned as one of
the hardest working people in the world.
As of 2004, the population of Korea was estimated
about 49 million with a population density of 492person/km2,
which ranks as one of the highest countries in the
world along with Bangladesh, the Netherlands, and
The total land area is 99,601 km2. Farm land constitutes
20,263 km2 (20%), while forest covers 64,948 km2
(65%). Only 4 percent of the total land area is
used for housing, public, and industrial land.
The Han-River basin with an area of 26,018 km2
(26 percent of the national land area) accommodates
about 21 million persons, while the Nakdong-River
Basin with an area of 23,817 km2 accommodates
about 12 million persons.
Of the 99,408 km2 of land in Korea, about 20.8%
(20,676 km2) is suitable for cultivation and most
of the remainder is hilly or mountainous. Only
about 5 percent of the area is used for building
sites, roads and factories.
Climate and Vegetation
Korea is in the moderately humid
zone of medium latitude. It has a distict seasonal
climate which is greatly defined by dry, cold continental
air masses during the winter and humid, warm air
masses from the ocean during the summer. Temperature
varies widely between summer and winter, and there
is great regional diversity.
Distribution of precipitation is more varied
than that of temperature. During the rainy season
from June to September, Korea receives about 70%
of its annual precipitation of 1,283mm. About
18% of the total annual precipitation falls during
the dry season from October to March.
Two or three of the approximately 28 typhoons
occurring in the vicinity of the northwestern
Pacific Ocean every year, influence the Korean
peninsula directly or indirectly. When a typhoon
is located north of 20N and west of 140E and it
is expected to influence the Korean peninsula.
The climate of Korea is suited for conifer and
deciduous forests, though the relatively unequal
distribution of rains have not allowed for very
dense vegetation. At present, good forests can
be found in mountain areas, where the forests
have been protected and managed to a good degree,
especially since the '60s.
Characteristics of the Rivers in Korea
The largest river in Korea from the viewpoint of
basin area and river discharge is the Han River.
It has a basin area of 26,018 km2 and an annual
runoff volume of 27.7 billion ?, which constitutes
26% and 28%, respectively, of the nation's total.
On the other hand, the longest river in Korea is
the Nakdong River with a river length of 552km.
Major characteristics of rivers in Korea are
as follows :
river reaches are relatively short and channel
slopes are relatively steep
The river reaches are short and drainage areas
are small in Korea compared with other major continental
rivers. The channel slopes are relatively steep
upstream because of steep mountains and deep valleys
in the uplands.
occur quickly and peak flood discharges are enormous
Due to the topographical conditions and torrential
rainfalls, the hydrographs of rivers in Korea
are very sharp and peak flood discharges are enormous
compared with other comparable rivers in the continent.
variations are high
The coefficients of the river regime, expressed
by maximum discharge over minimum discharge for
rivers in Korea usually range from 100 up to 700.
This large variation in the flow discharge causes
serious problems in river management concerning
flood control and water use.