Monday, August 19, 2013

The (Almost) Island of Korea

Friend #1:  Korea is perfectly defendable.  It's the definition of an island, surrounded by water on three sides!

Friend #2:  No, that is the definition of a peninsula.

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The above conversation got me wondering just how much of Korea is surrounded by water.  I knew that to the west was the Yellow Sea, to the east was the Sea of Japan, and to the south was the East China Sea.  I also knew that the Yalu River covered much of the North Korean-Chinese border but I did not know how much.

So I started to investigate.  I learned the Yalu ends in the Korea Bay (part of the Yellow Sea).  Its origin is about two-thirds of way east along the border at Baekdu Mountain.

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A map of the mountain showed the Yalu starting to the south of the mountain and its flow west to Korea Bay.  But looking at a map I also noticed something started to the east of Baekdu Mountain and flowing all the way east to the Sea of Japan.

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This river is the Turmen River.  The Turmen and Yalu share the same source: the water underneath the mountain.  They are connecting with each other by this water, some which flows off the mountain with snow melt and some that seeps out of the crater lake, Heaven Lake.  It is a stretch to say Korea is an island, but the water from the greater "Baekdu river" does flow all along Korea's northern border (though some of it is underground)

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