North Korea is located in East Asia in the Northern half of Korea, partially on the Korean Peninsula. It borders three countries: China along the Yalu (Amnok) River, Russia along the Tumen River, and South Korea to the south.
Topography and drainage
Early European visitors to Korea remarked that the country resembled “a sea in a heavy gale” because of the many successive mountain ranges that crisscross the peninsula. Some 80 percent of North Korea’s land area is composed of mountains and uplands, with all of the peninsula’s mountains with elevations of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) or more located in North Korea. The great majority of the population lives in the plains and lowlands.
Paektu Mountain, the highest point in North Korea at 2,743 metres (8,999 ft), is a volcanic mountain near Manchuria with basalt lava plateau with elevations between 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) and 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level. The Hamgyong Range, located in the extreme northeastern part of the peninsula, has many high peaks, including Kwanmobong at approximately 2,541 metres (8,337 ft).
Other major ranges include the Rangrim Mountains, which are located in the north-central part of North Korea and run in a north-south direction, making communication between the eastern and western parts of the country rather difficult; and the Kangnam Range, which runs along the North Korea–China border. Kumgangsan, or Diamond Mountain, (approximately 1,638 metres (5,374 ft)) in the Thaebaek Range, which extends into South Korea, is famous for its scenic beauty.
For the most part, the plains are small. The most extensive are the Pyongyang and Chaeryong plains, each covering about 500 km2. Because the mountains on the east coast drop abruptly to the sea, the plains are even smaller there than on the west coast.
The mountain ranges in the northern and eastern parts of North Korea form the watershed for most of its rivers, which run in a westerly direction and empty into the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay. The longest is the Amnok River, which is navigable for 678 km of its 790 kilometres (490 mi). The Tuman River, one of the few major rivers to flow into the Sea of Japan, is the second longest at 521 kilometres (324 mi) but is navigable for only 85 kilometres (53 mi) because of the mountainous topography.
The third longest river, the Taedong River, flows through Pyongyang and is navigable for 245 of its 397 km. Lakes tend to be small because of the lack of glacial activity and the stability of the Earth’s crust in the region. Unlike neighboring Japan or northern China, North Korea experiences few severe earthquakes. The country has a number of natural spas and hot springs, which number 124 according to one North Korean source.
North Korea has a combination of a continental climate and an oceanic climate, with four distinct seasons. Most of North Korea is classified as being of a humid continental climate within the Köppen climate classification scheme, with warm summers and cold, dry winters. In summer, there is a short rainy season called changma.
Long winters bring bitter cold and clear weather interspersed with snowstorms as a result of northern and northwestern winds that blow from Siberia. The daily average high and low temperatures for Pyongyang in January are −3 and −13 °C (27 and 9 °F). On average, it snows thirty-seven days during the winter. Winter can be particularly harsh in the northern, mountainous regions.
Summer tends to be short, hot, humid, and rainy because of the southern and southeastern monsoon winds that bring moist air from the Pacific Ocean. Spring and autumn are transitional seasons marked by mild temperatures and variable winds and bring the most pleasant weather. The daily average high and low temperatures for Pyongyang in August are 29 and 20 °C (84 and 68 °F).
On average, approximately 60% of all precipitation occurs from June to September. Natural hazards include late spring droughts which are often followed by severe flooding. Typhoons affect the peninsula on an average of at least once every summer or early autumn. The drought that started in June 2015, according to the Korean Central News Agency, has been the worst seen in 100 years