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HOME > Useful Information > Korea in Brief > Location

Korea lies adjacent to China and Japan. The northern border of Korea is formed by the Amnokgang (Yalu) and Dumangang (Tumen) rivers, which separate it from Manchuria. A 16-kilometer segment of the Dumangang to the east also serves as a natural border with Russia.

Two hundred kilometers separate the peninsula from eastern China. The shortest distance between Korean and Chinese coasts is 200 kilometers and from the southeastern tip of the peninsula, the nearest point on the Japanese coast is also about 200 kilometers away.

The Korean Peninsula extends about 1,000 kilometers southward from the northeast Asian continental landmass. Roughly 300 kilometers in width, climate variations are more pronounced along the south-north axis. Differences in plant vegetation can be seen between the colder north and the warmer south.

The peninsula and all of its associated islands lie between 33o06'40"N and 43o00'39"N parallels and 124o11'00"E and 131o52'08"E meridians. The latitudinal location of Korea is similar to that of the Iberian Peninsula and Greece. The entire peninsula corresponds approximately to the north-south span of the state of California.

Extreme points Places Coordinates
Northernmost Yeopojin, Hamgyeongbuk-do 43o00'39"N
Southernmost Marado Island, Jeju-do 33o06'40"N
Easternmost Dokdo Island, Gyeongsangbuk-do 131o52'08"E
Westernmost Maando Island, Pyeonganbuk-do 124o11'00"E

Longitudinally, Korea lies straight north of the Philippines and central Australia. The meridian of 127o30'E passes through the middle of the Korean Peninsula. Korea, however, shares the same standard meridian of 135oE with Japan. Seoul and Tokyo local time is nine hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Territory

The total area of the peninsula, including its islands, is 222,154 square kilometers of which about 45 percent (99,313 square kilometers), excluding the area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), constitutes the territory of South Korea. The combined territories of South and North Korea are similar to the size of Britain (244,100 square kilometers) and Guyana (215,000 square kilometers). South Korea alone is about the size of Hungary (93,000 square kilometers) and Jordan (97,700 square kilometers).

There are about 3,000 islands belonging to Korea. The islands are located mostly off the west and south coasts; only a handful of them lie off the East Sea. Ulleungdo, the largest island in the East Sea, serves as a major fishery base as does Dokdo. Bigger islands include Jejudo - the largest, Geojedo, Ganghwado, and Namhaedo.

At the end of World War II, the peninsula was divided into a northern zone occupied by Soviet forces and a southern zone occupied by U.S. forces. The boundary between the two zones was the 38th parallel. In 1953, at the end of the Korean War, a new border was fixed at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 4 kilometer-wide strip of land that runs along the lines of ceasefire from the east to the west coast for a distance of about 241 kilometers.

Geographical Regions

Mountain ranges have traditionally served as natural boundary markers between regions. Because these natural boundaries inhibited contacts between peoples living on either side of the range, subtle, and sometimes substantial, regional differences developed in both the spoken language and customs of the people. These regional distinctions also correspond to the traditional administrative divisions set up during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).



Dokdo Island

The Korean Peninsula is divided into three distinct regions; Central, South and North. These macro regions are divided into three separate geographical spheres, each of which shows particular economic, cultural and physical distinctiveness. In the Central region are the Seoul metropolitan area, Chungcheong and Gangwon provinces; in the South, Gyeongsang, Jeolla and Jeju provinces; and in the North, Pyeongan, Hamgyeong and Hwanghae provinces. The term "northern area" traditionally referred to those regions of Pyeongan and Hamgyeong provinces prior to the division of the peninsula in 1945. The "North" now refers to all the areas north of the Demilitarized Zone, comprising Pyeongan, Hamgyeong, Hwanghae and the northern parts of the Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces.

The Central Region

This region consists of the Seoul metropolitan area which is part of, Gyeonggi Province, Chungcheong Province to the south, and Gangwon province to the east.

The Capital (Seoul / Gyeonggi) Area : This includes Seoul and Incheon, which encompass the Gyeonggi-do. The capital area, as the name implies, is the center of all political, economic and cultural activity in South Korea. Clustered around Seoul are also a number of smaller cities, which form a continuous and sprawling urban area. In and around Seoul is the largest concentration of the nation's industries. As the hub of South Korea's transportation networks, with Gimpo International Airport located on the western outskirts of Seoul, the newly built Incheon International Airport, and railroad networks that connect to all parts of the country, the capital area serves as South Korea's gateway to the world. Given its strategic importance, the dialect spoken in Seoul is considered to be the nation's standard language.

Chungcheong Province : This region lies between the capital area and the South. Cheongju and Daejeon are the leading urban centers of the region, respectively. Lying just below the capital area, this region consisting of Chungcheongnam-do and Chungcheongbuk-do, has been characterized as a southern extension of Seoul; its proximity to the capital has been economically advantageous. New industries have recently mushroomed along the Asanman Bay on the west coast. The region has also profited from transportation and urban services available for Seoul and its vicinity. Chungcheong and Gyeonggi provinces specialize in horticulture and dairy farming to meet the huge demands of the nearby urban centers of the capital area.

Gangwon Province : This region lies to the east of the capital area. The Taebaeksan Mountain range, which runs north-south through the middle of the region, divides the province into eastern coastal and western inland areas. Gangneung, Chuncheon, and Wonju are its leading urban areas. Gangwon-do offers a variety of opportunities for tourism and sports, with its rugged terrain. Mining industries, once a major sector in the regional economy, have recently experienced a drastic decline due to competition from cheaper foreign-imported coal and minerals. The fall of mining industries, coupled with the national trend of rural to urban migration, are the major contributing factors for the recent migration out of the region. Gangwon-do, with less than 2 million residents, has now the smallest population of all the mainland provinces.

The South Region

The region includes the Gyeongsang Province, located in the southeast, Jeolla Province in the southwest, and Jejudo province which lies off the south coast.

Gyeongsang Province : This area includes metropolitan cities Busan, Daegu, and Ulsan encompassing Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do. Busan and Daegu are the major urban centers of the province, being the second (4 million) and third (2.5 million) largest cities in South Korea.

This region is characterized by the vast basin of the Nakdonggang River and is surrounded by the Sobaeksan mountain ranges. Due to the rugged topography of the surrounding mountains, sub-areas within the region share common cultural traits such as dialect and custom, which are quite distinct from peoples of other regions. The fact that Gyeongsang Province also has another name, "Yeongnam," which literally means "south of the mountain pass," attests to the key role that the mountains have historically played in fostering regional differences between the Korean people.

Gyeongsang Province has one of the largest industrial agglomerations, second only to the capital area, due mainly to the heavy investments in the region by the South Korean government since the 1960s. These heavy industrial facilities of steel, shipbuilding, automobile and petrochemical factories are largely concentrated along the southeast stretch of Pohang, through Ulsan, Busan, Changwon, and Masan. The northern part also has two major clusters of industries around Daegu and Gumi, specializing in textile and electronics.

Jeolla Province : Jeolla Province is located southwest of the peninsula and comprises of Jeollabuk-do and Jeollanam-do. Gwangju, Jeonju, and Naju are their respective centers.

Honam" is another name for Jeolla Province. The flat fertile lands of the Geumgang and Yeongsangang river basins, as well as the coastal lowlands, have made the region the major granary of the nation. The regional economy has lagged somewhat behind the capital and Gyeongsang regions due to sparse industrial investments made there during the past decades. However, this situation is changing and the region is now experiencing industrial growth in major urban centers like Gwangju and Jeonju, as well as along its western coast. Also, the tidal flats near Gunsan and Mokpo have recently been reclaimed, adding new land for industrial development.

Jejudo Island : Jejudo is the largest Island in Korea located about 140 kilometers south of Mokpo in the South Sea. Its historic isolation from the mainland contributed to the Jejudo peoples' distinct dialect and lifestyle. Of volcanic origin, the island has rugged topography of numerous hills, gorges, and waterfalls. Because of its subtropical climate and the unique lifestyles and customs of its people, tourism is the region's most important industry. The island is also famous for its subtropical fruits such as tangerines, pineapples and bananas. It is also known for its women divers.

The North Region

The northern part of the peninsula is divided into two geographic regions: Pyeongan Province in the northwest and Hamgyeong Province in the northeast. The former with its flatlands is also known as the Gwanseo region while the latter is often referred to as Gwanbuk. Pyeongan Province serves as the major agricultural area of the North. By contrast, Hamgyeong Province, due to its mountainous topography, boasts mining and forestry as its major economic activities. Pyongyang, the leading urban center in the Pyeongan Province, is the capital of North Korea and Nampo serves as the gateway port to Pyongyang. Hamheung and Cheongjin are the major cities of Hamgyeong Province.

The third geographical region of the North, Hwanghae Province lies to the south of Pyeongan Province. Once a part of the Central Region prior to the South-North division, Hwanghae Province shares a great many cultural similarities with other west-central regions of the peninsula. Gaeseong is the major city of the region.

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