Mansudae Korea

Hamgyong: Northeast North Korea

Hamgyong is the most northerly region of Korea comprising of two provinces, North Hamgyong and South Hamgyong. The province stretches from the border with China and Russia along the Tumen river down through the mountainous landscape to the flat river delta north of Wonsan where the southern side of South Hamgyong borders Kangwon Province.

Hamgyong was formerly a single province during the Chosun (Joseon) dynasty as one of eight provinces which made up Korean territory.

North Hamgyong Province (함경북도)

North Hamgyong Province is the most northerly province in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is bordered on the east by the East Sea and on the west by the Ryanggang and South Hamgyong Provinces. North of North Hamgyong Province is the border with the People’s Republic of China along the Tumen river. There are 3 main cities in the province; Chongjin, the capital, Kimchaek and Hoeryong. The city of Rason is situated north of the province and was formerly part of the region; it is now a special economic zone between North Hamgyong and the short border with Russia.

Statues of the President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il in Chongjin

The region is primarily mountainous and so little agricultural work can be done in the area. The economy is primarily based on heavy indistry and shipping from the major seaports at Chongjin and Hoeryong. Outside of the major cities, the province is one of the least economically developed in the country. The mountainous geography makes many areas difficult to access, despite this obstacle, the region is a key route for international trade given its extensive border with China and connection to the Russian far-east via railway at Rason.

The province is also home to the only nuclear testing site in the country. The Punggye-ri site in the south of the province was the site of all of the DPRK’s nuclear tests to date and was reported to have been dismantled in 2018 as part of a series of goodwill gestures designed to aid the recovering diplomatic relationship between the DPRK and the international community.

Wangjaesan Grand Monument in the far north of North Hamgyong

South Hamgyong Province (함경남도)

South Hamgyong is a province on the eastern side of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The province spans a geographically diverse area with large areas of mountainous terrain alongside flat regions ideal for agriculture. This varied landscape allows the region to have a hugely diversified economy based on heavy industry, like its northern counterpart, agriculture and international shipping from its port cities along the East Sea.

Main avenue in Hamhung

The province is bordered by North Hamgyong, Chagang and Ryanggang to the north, South Pyongan to the west and Kangwon to the south. The entire province’s eastern border is along the coast with the east sea. Whilst the province is dominated by the Hamgyong mountain range in the north, a large river delta in the south creates a large flat plain ideal for farming. The DPRK has a distinct lack of  arable land due to the extensive mountain ranges covering the country so the arable land in South Hamgyong is almost entirely dominated by agriculture. Counties such as Kumya and Kowon have economies almost entirely built on agriculture due to the flat land created by the river.

In the north of the province, the mountainous areas mean the economy is based on other activities such as mining, fishing and Industry. Hamhung is the second largest city in the DPRK and has a primarily industry based economy as well as acting as a major seaport for foreign trade. Tanchon is the site of a major mining industry and Sinpo is a centre for aquaculture.

A small town on the coast in South Hamgyong

Benjamin Weston

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