North Korea Human Geography

By | October 23, 2021

The news regarding the population of North Korea are rather fragmentary but sufficient to place it in the Paleolithic era. The north of the peninsula has been identified as the area of ​​earliest settlement probably due to the Mongolian populations coming from N, the Tungusis; then there was immigration of “southern” groups (Malaysians and Indonesians) that made Korea a meeting place between different anthropic environments. As for the numerical entity of the population, at the beginning of the century. XIX it amounted, in the whole peninsula, to 7.5 million residents, which in a hundred years became 12 million; Since then there has been a huge demographic increase, largely attributable to the improvement in living conditions brought about by the Japanese, so that already on the eve of the Second World War the population had doubled. Since the creation of two separate nations (1953), the demographic development of North Korea has registered a greater increase than that of South Korea, mainly thanks to the still high birth rates. urbanization and the growing role of women in the world of work induced social transformations that significantly affected the demographic and family patterns of the population. Despite the recent decline in births, the birth rate remains almost double that of South Korea. In North Korea, the birth control policy, implemented according to less rigid criteria than the Chinese ones, consists, for example, in discouraging marriage for men under the age of 32 and for women under the age of 29. Life expectancy has also improved, being about twenty years higher than that recorded in 1960. A severe famine has struck the Country in the mid-nineties and caused the death of several million people; poverty and hunger remain emergencies from which thousands of North Koreans try to escape every year by evading government controls and leaving the country (around 100,000 refugees live in China). North Korea, essentially mountainous and less favored in terms of climate, is also much less populated (207.65 residents/km²) than South Korea.

The Japanese in fact partially eased the southern demographic pressure by pushing a considerable number of Koreans towards the North, which was gradually industrializing thanks to the presence of iron and coal deposits; it was the division of the country into two states that then forcibly interrupted the migratory flow. In North Korea, according to localtimezone, the population has been concentrated in the mining and industrial areas. The development of urbanism, which began with the Japanese occupation, it has subsequently intensified due to the growing attraction exerted by the industries that have sprung up in the cities. The latter, located mainly on or near the coasts, mostly at the mouth of the major rivers, originally had port or commercial functions in general, which were accompanied by increasingly important industrial activities. The only real metropolis is Pyongyang, which for centuries has been in a leading position compared to other cities in the North, valued by the Japanese as a commercial (with port at Namp’o) and industrial center, with large iron and steel, mechanical, etc. minerals extracted from nearby deposits. Sinŭiju, an important center of the North Korean hinterland located on the Yalu River, plays a pre-eminently industrial role. at its mouth in the Yellow Sea opposite the Chinese Dandong. North Korea’s major ports on the Sea of ​​Japan are Ch’ŏngjin e Wŏnsan, which combine a conspicuous commercial activity with a no less important industrial function, also favored by the energy produced by the nearby mountain hydroelectric plants; home to numerous engineering and chemical industries is Heungnam, the seaport of Hamhŭng, an important commercial center as well as a railway junction between the North-East and the West coast. Finally, a large internal center not far from the border on the road to Seoul, is Kaesŏng, former capital of the ancient Koryŏ dynasty, from whose period there are splendid ceramics among the most refined of all ancient Far Eastern art; the city still boasts a famous porcelain industry.


The rivers have mostly short and irregular courses (especially those that flow to the E) and limited flows. The exception is the Tumen (Du man), which marks the border with Russia and partly with Manchuria and which is navigable for over 300 km. The other main river is the Yalu, which flows on the northern border but whose basin, the largest (31,000 km²) in the country, is half included in Manchuria. Subject to rain-snow conditions, they have abundant flows in spring due to the melting of snow and in summer due to abundant rainfall, but in winter they are frozen for most of the course. Most rivers have favorable conditions for the production of hydroelectricity in the upper part of the basin.


In the higher internal plateaus there are dense forests, especially of conifers, with a lower altimetric limit between 1500 and 600 m, followed in temperate areas by the mixed forest of conifers and broad-leaved trees. Vast denuded areas extend above all to the center, where Japanese exploitation has had serious consequences for forest coverings. A widespread reforestation work, promoted and implemented by the government, has in any case made it possible to restore a large part of the forest heritage although problems of erosion and soil degradation are still present. The fauna of North Korea is typical of the continental Asian region, with several species originally migrating from Siberia or Manchuria. The major environmental emergencies concern the pollution of rivers and the scarcity of drinking water. With an area of ​​protected areas equal to 1.8% of the territory, North Korea has 9 national parks and numerous monuments and nature reserves.

North Korea Human Geography