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North Korea

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North Korea is located in eastern Asia and occupies the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. The Yalu and Tumen rivers form its northern border with China and Russia. The Korean Bay, an extension of the Yellow Sea, lies to the west, with the Sea of Japan to the east.

The Republic of Korea, formerly South Korea, occupies the southern part of the peninsula and is separated from the north by a buffer, demilitarised zone.

Mountains are the domi­nant topographical feature of North Korea, occupying the northern part of the country and extending southwards in broadband beside the coast of the Sea of Japan.

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The highest range is in the northwest and North Korea’s highest peak, Paektu-San (2,737 meters or 9,003 feet), which located on the border with China.

The mountains in the north are rugged and forested and dissected by steep river gorges, while those along the eastern seaboard consist mainly of bare, weather-beaten rock. Some flatter ground and lower-lying plains occur in the west and the river valleys, but this amounts to only about 20 percent of the total land area.

Several rivers and streams rise in the mountains and empty either into the Sea of Japan or the Korean Bay. The largest and most important river is the Yalu, which forms the border with China for a considerable part of its course. Many streams along the length of the country’s rugged eastern coast descend steeply down the rocky mountain slopes into the sea.

The mountainous regions in the north of the country support large tracts of coniferous forest. In the west’s lowland regions, the deciduous forests have cleared as this area provides the country’s only cultivatable land.

A variety of wildlife is found in the country, particularly in the sparsely populated mountains and forests. Large carnivores include tigers, leopards, wolves, and bears, but these are becoming increasingly rare.

North Korea has a continental type of climate with hot summers and cold winters. The wet season is in the hottest months of July and August, when most of the yearly average rainfall of 1,026 millimeters or 40 inches experienced.

Most people live in the flatter, western regions of the country, and about two-thirds of them in cities or towns, including Pyongyang‘s capital city.

Flatland suitable for cultivation is at a premium in North Korea, and soil improvement schemes, water conservation, irrigation, land reclamation, and mechanization are highly developed. This has resulted in improved food yields in recent years, with the most important crops being rice, corn, potatoes, millet, soya beans, wheat, barley, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and fruit such as apples.

Livestock animals include pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry. Farms run as collectives with a series of economic development plans in place, mainly concentrating on mechanization and technological improvements. Other floods and drought in the 1990s have resulted in crop failure and widespread famine, necessitating international relief aid.

Wood is extracted from the forests mainly for home use in construction, and a marine fishing fleet catches tuna, anchovy, and mackerel. Seaweeds are also harvested. The country continues to fully exploit its fast-flowing rivers to produce hydroelectric power, which supplies about 60 percent of its energy needs.

North Korea is richly endowed with a wide variety of minerals, and mining is an essential contributor to the economy. Of particular importance are coal and iron ore, but there are also reasonable reserves of copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, graphite, magnesite, gold, silver, and phosphates.

The industry nationalized in North Korea, and emphasis has been on massive industrial developments, including iron and steel, large machinery and engines, locomotives, rolling stock, trucks, construction equipment, and vehicles. However, cement, fertilizers, textiles, and clothing are also produced, and there is some mineral refining.

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The terrain of North Korea is mountainous; Paektu-san, an extinct volcano, is the highest point. A series of plains extends along the coasts on either side of the country. North Korea is situated on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.

The Sea of Japan, an enclosed arm of the western Pacific Ocean, lies to North Korea’s east. Its coastal waters are profound, averaging about 1,676 meters (5,500 feet). Korea Bay, off the western coast, is an inlet of the Yellow Sea, which is also an arm of the Pacific Ocean. The Bay is shallow, and it has an unusually great tidal range of 6 to 12 meters (20 to 40 feet).

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The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the land stretch that marks the border between North and South Korea. The demarcation line, or border, was created at the 38th parallel (38° latitude) by a 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War. Since then, the DMZ, which covers about 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles), has been almost entirely free from human intrusion. As a result, the ecosystem has flourished and has become home to many rare and endangered species, including Asiatic black bears, Amur leopards, the red-crowned crane, and several others. Environmentalists and activists from around the world are working to make the area a protected nature reserve.

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