The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula located in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 1,100 km (680 mi) from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east and the Yellow Sea (West Sea) to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the two bodies of water.
The peninsula's names, in Korean, Chinese and Japanese, all share the same origin, that being Joseon, the old name of Korea under the Joseon Dynasty and Gojoseon even longer before that. In North Korea's standard language, the peninsula is called Chosŏn Pando (Korean: 조선반도; Hanja: 朝鮮半島; RR: Joseon Bando), while in China it is called Cháoxiǎn Bàndǎo (朝鲜半岛/朝鮮半島).In Japan, it is either Chōsenhantō (Kanji: 朝鮮半島 / Hiragana: ちょうせんはんとう) or Kanhantō (South Korean-specific only) (Kanji: 韓半島 / Hiragana: かんはんとう). In Vietnam, it is called Bán đảo Triều Tiên. Meanwhile, in South Korea, it is called Hanbando (Korean: 한반도; Hanja: 韓半島), referring to the Samhan, specifically the Three Kingdoms of Korea, not the ancient confederacies in the southern Korean Peninsula. They both use "Korea" as part of their official English names, which is a name that comes from the Goryeo (or Koryŏ, in North Korea) dynasty (고려; 高麗).
Until the end of World War II, Korea was a single political entity whose territory roughly coincided with the Korean Peninsula. In August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Imperial Japan, as a result of an agreement with the United States, and liberated Korea north of the 38th parallel. U.S. forces subsequently moved into the south. By 1948, as a product of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, Korea was divided into two regions, with separate governments. Both claimed to be the legitimate government of all of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent. The conflict escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces—supported by the Soviet Union and China—moved into the south on 25 June 1950. Since the Armistice Agreement ended the Korean War in 1953, the northern section of the peninsula has been governed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, while the southern portion has been governed by the Republic of Korea.
The northern boundaries for the Korean Peninsula are commonly (and tacitly) taken to coincide with today's political borders between North Korea and its northern neighbors, China (1,416 km (880 mi) along the provinces of Jilin and Liaoning) and Russia (19 km (12 mi)). These borders are formed naturally by the rivers Amnok and Duman. Taking this definition, the Korean Peninsula (including its islands) has an area of 220,847 km2 (85,270 sq mi).
The Korean Peninsula has a temperate climate with comparatively fewer typhoons than other countries in East Asia. Due to the peninsula's position, it has a unique climate influenced from Siberia in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the east and the rest of Eurasia in the west. The peninsula has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
As influence from Siberia weakens, temperatures begin to increase while the high pressure begins to move away. If the weather is abnormally dry, Siberia will have more influence on the peninsula leading to wintry weather such as snow.
During June at the start of the summer, there tends to be a lot of rain due to the cold and wet air from the Sea of Okhotsk and the hot and humid air from the Pacific Ocean combining. When these fronts combine, it leads to a so-called rainy season with often cloudy days with rain, which is sometimes very heavy. The hot and humid winds from the south west blow causing an increasing amount of humidity and this leads to the fronts moving towards Manchuria in China and thus there is less rain and this is known as midsummer; temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86 °F) daily at this time of year.
Usually, high pressure is heavily dominant during autumn leading to clear conditions. Furthermore, temperatures remain high but the humidity becomes relatively low.
The weather becomes increasingly dominated by Siberia during winter and the jet stream moves further south causing a drop in temperature. This season is relatively dry with some snow falling at times.
The Korean Peninsula is located in East Asia. To the northwest, the Amnok River separates the peninsula from China and to the northeast, the Duman River separates it from China and Russia. The peninsula is surrounded by the Yellow Sea to the west, the East China Sea and Korea Strait to the south, and the Sea of Japan to the east. Notable islands include Jeju Island, Ulleung Island, Dokdo.
The southern and western parts of the peninsula have well-developed plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous. The highest mountain in Korea is Mount Paektu (2,744 m), through which runs the border with China. The southern extension of Mount Paektu is a highland called Gaema Heights. This highland was mainly raised during the Cenozoic orogeny and partly covered by volcanic matter. To the south of Gaema Gowon, successive high mountains are located along the eastern coast of the peninsula. This mountain range is named Baekdudaegan. Some significant mountains include Mount Sobaek or Sobaeksan (1,439 m), Mount Kumgang (1,638 m), Mount Seorak (1,708 m), Mount Taebaek (1,567 m), and Mount Jiri (1,915 m). There are several lower, secondary mountain series whose direction is almost perpendicular to that of Baekdudaegan. They are developed along the tectonic line of Mesozoic orogeny and their directions are basically northwest.
Unlike most ancient mountains on the mainland, many important islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the Cenozoic orogeny. Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast, is a large volcanic island whose main mountain Mount Halla or Hallasan (1950 m) is the highest in South Korea. Ulleung Island is a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan, the composition of which is more felsic than Jeju-do. The volcanic islands tend to be younger, the more westward.
Because the mountainous region is mostly on the eastern part of the peninsula, the main rivers tend to flow westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing Nakdong River and Seomjin River. Important rivers running westward include the Amnok River, the Chongchon River, the Taedong River, the Han River, the Geum River, and the Yeongsan River. These rivers have vast flood plains and provide an ideal environment for wet-rice cultivation.
The southern and southwestern coastlines of the peninsula form a well-developed ria coastline, known as Dadohae-jin in Korean. Its convoluted coastline provides mild seas, and the resulting calm environment allows for safe navigation, fishing, and seaweed farming. In addition to the complex coastline, the western coast of the Korean Peninsula has an extremely high tidal amplitude (at Incheon, around the middle of the western coast. It can get as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats have been developing on the south and west coastlines.
Animal life of the Korean Peninsula includes a considerable number of bird species and native freshwater fish. Native or endemic species of the Korean Peninsula include Korean hare, Korean water deer, Korean field mouse, Korean brown frog, Korean pine and Korean spruce. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with its forest and natural wetlands is a unique biodiversity spot, which harbours eighty-two endangered species.
There are also approximately 3,034 species of vascular plants.