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DPRK Terrain

While much of the mountainous Korean terrain favors light infantry operations, two major avenues of approach from the north are suitable for mechanized/armored employment. These two avenues of approach lead directly to Seoul, the capital of the ROK, only 40 miles south of the DMZ. Thus, the defense of Seoul depends on containing an enemy attack as far north as possible. This is a key factor in the defense plans of Korea. Heavy rains in summer often cause damaging floods which severely restrict mobility, while freezing rice paddies in winter increase mobility. Additionally, the mountainous terrain tends to channel vehicular movement. The mobility-countermobility roles of the engineers will be critical during any allied operation.

The Korean Peninsula is extremely mountainous, offering excellent observation along avenues of approach and lines of communication (LOCs) in the northern and central mountain areas. Observation in the eastern coastal lowland area is limited, but improves the further west one travels. Observation in the northwest, southwest, and southern plains areas is fair to limited. Fields of fire are poorest in extremely rugged regions of the northern and central mountain areas, due to numerous spurs and areas offering cover from direct fire weapons. The regions offering the best fields of fire would be the northwest, southwest, and southern plains, where the terrain is relatively flat and open, except in built-up areas.

The Korean Peninsula comprises numerous ridge lines and hills. Only 20 percent of the total land area consists of plains and lowlands. The folds in these ridgelines and hills afford excellent cover and some degree of concealment from direct fire and ground observation. The majority of ridge lines run in a north-south direction, severely restricting east-west movement. This restriction of lateral movement becomes more prevalent the further north operations move. The major water obstacles on the peninsula are its rivers. During most of the year, the rivers are shallow, exposing very wide, gravel river beds; however, these rivers can become formidable obstacles as a result of the increased precipitation during the rainy season.

The Korean Peninsula protrudes southward from the Asian mainland separating the Yellow Sea (West Sea) to the west from the East Sea (Sea of Japan) to the east. The Peninsula is roughly 346 km (215 mi) wide at its broadest point (approximately 3810'N), roughly 169 km (105 mi) at its narrowest point (approximately 3920'N), and approximately 965 km (600 mi) long. The northern-most point of the peninsula is located on the Chinese border at approximately 43N (about the same latitude as Buffalo, New York), the southern-most point on the peninsula is located at approximately 3420'N (about the same latitude as Wilmington, North Carolina) on the East China Sea. The western-most point on the peninsula is located at 12440'E on the Yellow Sea, and the eastern most point on the peninsula is located at 12935'E on the East Sea (Sea of Japan)/Korea Strait (Straits of Tsushima).

The total land area for North Korea is 120,410 km (46,490 mi), or slightly smaller than Mississippi. The total land area for South Korea is 98,190 km (84,401 mi), or slightly larger than Indiana. North Korea's coastline is 2,495 km (1,551 mi) and South Korea's is 2,413 km (1,550 mi).

The DPRK's capital city is Pyongyang. Administrative divisions include nine provinces (do, singular and plural); Chagang-do, Hamgyong-namdo, Hamg-yong-pukto, Hwanghae-namdo, Hwanghae-pukto, Kangwon-do, Pyongan-pukto, Pyongan-namdo, Yanggang-do; and three special cities (jikhalsi, singular and plu-ral); Kaesong-si, Nampo-si, and Pyongyang-si.

Korea's geographic position serves as a natural bridge between the Asian continent and the Japanese islands. The coastline is highly indented with approximately 3,500 islands, mostly located off the south and west coasts. Korea, though comparatively small in size, is noted for the extraordinary variety of its geography. The country is punctuated with rough mountains, large streams, and rugged narrow passes with only about 20 percent of the peninsula suitable for cultivation. Another factor is the shallowness of the Yellow Sea, contributing to the extreme tidal range (9.7 m (32 ft), the second largest in the world) on the west coast.

The Korean Peninsula is primarily a region of mountains (approximately 70 percent) and they are the defining characteristics of the terrain. The mountains are generally of medium height, about 1,500 m (4,921 ft), with lower mountains 200-500 m (656-1,640 ft) high (all elevations of 2,000 m (6,600 ft) or more are found in North Korea). Relief differentials (as measured from valley floor to peak or ridge tops) for even the lowest mountains, are generally 300-400 m (980-1,300 ft). The elevated places are heavily bisected by river valleys, which frequently have deep narrow passes and canyons, with steep slopes or near vertical or vertical walls. Paektu-san, at 2,744 m (9,003 ft), is the highest mountain in the Koreas, rising out of the Kaema Plateau, in the far northeast, which is the headwater for the Yalu and Tumen Rivers.

Mountain ranges generally parallel the coastlines, but nearly all emit a number of mountain chains that extend in various directions and intersect one another, making the country's relief system complex and tangled. Korea's mountain system may be broken into three segments.

The North Korean Mountain Regions are divided into the Tumen and the Yalu (Amnok) River mountain regions. The Tumen region (the area between the Tumen River and the East Sea (Sea of Japan)) is in the northeast corner of North Korea. These mountains are relatively low and passable in the northeast, but gradually increase in elevation toward the southwest, becoming less and less accessible. Their high region reaches 2,500 m (8,202 ft). Their southwest direction is interrupted by the Materyong mountains, which extend southeast from the Manchurian border to the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The Yalu (Amnok) mountain region is between the Yalu River and the Yellow Sea. The region forms the mountain roof of the Korean Peninsula. These ranges are noted for their complicated structure, severity, inaccessibility, and lack of settlers. The western portion of this region becomes gradually lower, rarely exceeding 1,000 m (3,281 ft), but the ranges have steep slopes, are highly dissected, and contain dense forests. Communication is usually only practical via the deep river valleys.

The East Korean Mountain Region mountains extend south along the shore of the East Sea (Sea of Japan) in three parallel lines to the southern extreme of the peninsula. These mountains reach 1,500 m (4,921 ft) and are characterized by narrow, jagged crests and steep slopes that are cut by deep gorges. The relief difference between the flat littoral valleys and the abrupt elevation change of the mountains handicap cross-country movement.

The South Korean Mountain Region region consists of a series of short ranges that extend in parallel rows to the southern shore of the peninsula. These mountains reach 1,500 m (4,921 ft) and most of the region is easily accessible, except for the central region which is characterized by sharp jagged crests with high passes and steep rugged slopes.

The largest and most important tracks of lowland lie near the shorelines (coastal alluvial plains). Besides these coastal alluvial plains, erosional basins were formed in the mountains at the junctions of rivers and streams and are usually found in central and southern Korea (mostly expanded river valleys or nearly closed inter-mountain valleys). Between the mountains lie lowlands that were formed by river valleys and sea terraces. Most lowlands are settled/cultivated. The wide range of temperature fluctuations (between summer highs and winter lows) and concentrated summer rains induce intense weathering and erosion of surface material. Gentle slopes at the foot of mountains, hills, and near basins, are covered with thick deposits of weathered materials formed from the erosion of upland material. Alluvial fans are rarely developed.

The largest lowlands are river deltas found along coast of the Yellow Sea. The lowlands of the eastern and southern coastline are usually river deltas and as a rule are small, due to the mountains in the east abruptly dropping into the sea. Large tidal ranges (west coast) and funnel shaped river mouths prevent the formation of large active (growing) deltas, although rivers transport large amounts of deposited material during the wet season (summer). The wide coastal plains near the river mouths change abruptly into narrow flood plains a short distance upriver. Most river delta lowlands, especially those on the Yellow Sea, are subject to inundations by seasonal river flooding (summer) and high tides. During the flood season (summer), small dikes (2-3 m /6.5-9.8 ft) are built to protect fields and homes. While mountains are the dom-inate geological feature, lowlands have played a key role in Korea's culture/ history.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:44 ZULU