Kangwon Province (North Korea)

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For the province in South Korea that bears the same name but different romanisation, see Gangwon Province, South Korea.
Kangwon Province
Korean transcription(s)
 • Chosŏn'gŭl
 • Hancha
 • McCune‑Reischauer Kangwŏndo
 • Revised Romanization Gangwon-do
Location of Kangwon Province
Country North Korea
Region Gwandong
(Yeongseo: western Kangwŏn; Yeongdong: eastern Kangwŏn)
Capital Wŏnsan
Subdivisions 2 cities; 15 counties
 • Total 11,255 km2 (4,346 sq mi)
Population (2008)
 • Total 1,477,582
 • Density 130/km2 (340/sq mi)
Dialect Kangwŏn, Hamgyŏng

Kangwon Province (Kangwŏndo; Korean pronunciation: [kaŋ.wʌn.do]) is a province of North Korea, with its capital at Wŏnsan. Before the division of Korea in 1945, Kangwŏn Province and its South Korean neighbour Gangwon Province (also spelled Kangwon Province) formed a single province that excluded Wŏnsan.


Kangwŏn was one of the Eight Provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. The province was formed 1395, and derived its name from the names of the principal cities of Gangneung (or Kangnŭng; 강릉; 江陵) and the provincial capital Wonju (or Wŏnju; 원주; 原州).

In 1895, Kangwŏn was replaced by the Districts of Chuncheon (Chuncheon-bu; 춘천부; 春川府) in the west and Gangneung (Gangneung-bu; 강릉부; 江陵府) in the east. Wonju became part of Chungju District.

In 1896, Korea was redivided into thirteen provinces, and the two districts were merged to re-form Kangwŏn Province. Although Wonju rejoined Kangwŏn province, the provincial capital was moved to Chuncheon.

In 1945, Kangwŏn Province (along with the rest of Korea) was divided by the 38th parallel north in 1945 into Soviet and American zones of occupation in the north and south respectively. In 1946, the northern province was expanded to include the North Korean portion of Gyeonggi Province, and the area around Wŏnsan in South Hamgyŏng Province. The provincial capital of the North Korean portion of the province was established at Wŏnsan, as Kangwŏn's traditional capitals Wonju and Chuncheon both were south of the 38th parallel. In 1948, the province became part of the new Democratic People's Republic of Korea. As a result of the Korean War Armistice Agreement of 1953, the boundary between the North and South Korean portions of the province was shifted northward to the Military Demarcation Line.

In 2002, Mount Kumgang Tourist Region was split off from the rest of the province to form a separately-administered region.

In 2012, Kim Jong-un took control of North Korea after his father Kim Jong-il passed away. Later that year, a typhoon devastated the Kangwon province. Roads and homes were under water. The situation was exacerbated by the excessive deforestation and lack of infrastructure in the Kangwon province.[1] In October of 2012, a North Korean soldier defected by walking across the heavily guarded boarder between North and South Korea adjacent to the Kangwon province. He surrendered to South Korean soldiers by knocking on the door of their barracks. The incident drew criticism from South Koreans concerned with border security.[2]

Throughout 2013 and early 2014, North Korea received increased scrutiny over reports of cannibalism. A North Korean man was found guilty of eating both of his two children. The United Nations World Food Program requested access to a suspected market for human meat in North Korea. The North Korean government denied the request. But, a defector named Sung Min Jeong claims to have witnessed the sale of human meat in North Korea. In early 2014, the United Nations released a report claiming that a group of North Korean guards fed an infant to a dog. The infants mother was reportedly forced to watch.[3][4][5]

In 2014, Kim Jong-un opened a controversial luxury ski resort in the Kangwon province. The hotel had 120 rooms. It also had luxury accommodations such as a hot tub, sauna, and swimming pool. It had nine ski runs. Kim Jong-un is thought to have taken up skiing while attending middle school in Switzerland. But, Switzerland has referred to the resort as a propaganda project.[6][7]

In August of 2017, Kim Jung-un launched three missiles from the Kangwon province. Two of the missiles flew about 250 meters before crashing. The other one blew up almost immediately after launch.[8][9]

In 2018, the new year saw a surge in defections from North Korea. It was also discovered that North Korea has been using a mobile espionage campaign to thwart the efforts of potential defectors.[10] Also, in early January of 2018, North Korea agreed to send athletes to the Olympic games in South Korea.[11][12][13] This happened four years after North Korea's lack of participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian City of Sochi.[14]


The province is bordered by South Hamgyŏng to the north, South P'yŏngan and North Hwanghae to the west, and Kaesŏng to the south. Additionally, the province is across the Korean Demilitarized Zone from its South Korean counterpart Gangwon. To the east is the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea).

The province is dominated by the T'aebaek Mountains, the highest peak of which is Mount Kumgang ("Diamond Mountain").

Kangwŏn and Gangwon Provinces are together referred to as the Gwandong region. The region west of the Taebaek Mountains is called Yŏngsŏ, while the region east of the mountains is called Yŏngdong.

In April 2003, the Mt. Chuae Plant Reserve was created.[15] The reserve is 687 hectares and is in Shindong-ri, Sepho County, and Sanyang-ri, Kosan County.[15] Mt. Chuae is 1,528 meters above sea level and is part of the Masingnyong Mountains.[15] The DPRK Nature Conservation Union is tring to preserve mixed forests of pine and broad-leaf trees.[15] The DPRK Cabinet-level decision has banned animal grazing and collecting plant resources and other acts of damaging the environment.[15]

Administrative divisions

Kangwŏn Province is divided into 2 cities (si), 1 special administrative regions, and 15 counties (kun).





  1. ^ "Twice the typhoon terror: Tembin now threatens Koreas after Bolaven kills 12h", National Post, August 29, 2012
  2. ^ K.J. Kwon, "South Korean military embarrassed after defector from North knocks on door", CNN, October 15, 2012
  3. ^ Charlotte Meredith, "North Korean reveals cannibalism is common after escaping starving state", Express, Apr 17, 2013
  4. ^ David Knowles, "New reports of starving North Koreans resorting to cannibalism come amid renewed tensions between Pyongyang and Washington", The New York Times, January 29, 2013
  5. ^ Rachael Denhollander, "North Korea Shock: Newborn Infants Are Murdered While Mothers Forced to Watch", Live News, February 19, 2014
  6. ^ Hunter Stuart, "North Korea’s Controversial Ski Resort Now Open For Business", Huffington Post, January 25, 2014
  7. ^ Frances Cha and Paula Hancocks, "World's most exotic luxury ski resort? Hitting the slopes at Masik, North Korea", CNN, February 14, 2017
  8. ^ Will Ripley, Jamie Crawford & Ralph Ellis, "North Korea launches trio of missiles amidst US-South Korea military drills", The New York Times, August 26, 2017
  9. ^ Dana Varinsky, "A controversial pardon and a key departure: Here's everything that happened in a wild Friday news dump from the White House", Business Insider, August 26, 2017
  10. ^ Charles Black, "Can Donald Trump walk a mile in Kim's shoes?", Multi Fest, January 12, 2018
  11. ^ Charles Black, "Inclusion in Winter Olympics proves Kim Jong-un is lovable guy.", Multi Fest, January 18, 2017
  12. ^ Charles Black, "North Korea dreaming. A guide to being "bling" in the land of starvation.", Multi Fest, January 17, 2017
  13. ^ Mac William Bishop and Bruce Harrison, "North Korea agrees to send athletes to South Korea Olympics", NBC News, January 9, 2018
  14. ^ Frances Cha and Paula Hancocks, "World's most exotic luxury ski resort? Hitting the slopes at Masik, North Korea", CNN, February 14, 2014
  15. ^ a b c d e Ju, Song I (May 5, 2012). "Plant reserve on Mt. Chuae". Pyongyang Times. George Washington University. p. 8. 

External links

  • Seoul City history article on Hanseong and 22 other late 19th-century districts (in Korean)

Coordinates: 39°08′51″N 127°26′46″E / 39.14750°N 127.44611°E / 39.14750; 127.44611

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