South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean peninsula, between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. In area the country is a little smaller than England. It has a border with the People's Republic of North Korea approximately along the 38° parallel of latitude. Much of the country is hilly or even mountainous; in the east there are many hills rising above 915 m/3,000 ft. The largest areas of lowland are in the west.
The general features of the weather and climate of the Korean peninsula are described here. Where conditions are different in North Korea they are mentioned.
Situated on the eastern side of the great land mass of Eurasia, South Korea has a rather extreme continental climate considering that it is surrounded by water on three sides. The winters are very cold. Nowhere else in the world, in a similar latitude, are winters so cold with such frequent frost and snow. Summers are warm and, at times, hot. Most of the annual rainfall occurs between June and September. Some precipitation occurs in all months but, from November until early April, this is often snow. Snow falls on an average of twenty-eight days a year at Seoul and on about ten days in the far south.
The transition from the cold, dry winter to the warm, wet summer occurs rather quickly between April and early May, and there is a similar rather abrupt return to winter conditions in late October and early November. Over most of the country summer temperatures are high enough for rice to be grown extensively.
Korea is one of the most northerly countries to be affected by the great seasonal wind reversal called the Asiatic monsoon. In winter the winds are predominantly from the west and north, bringing very cold but dry air from north China and Siberia. In summer the winds are mainly from the east and south, bringing warm, moist air from the Pacific Ocean. The weather can be somewhat variable from day to day at all seasons, since the country is affected by frontal systems and depressions moving from the west. These bring rain or snow and occasional thaws in winter. In summer these disturbances are associated with the spells of heaviest rainfall. About once a year a typhoon moves up from the South China Sea and brings very heavy rain and strong winds at any time between June and September.
A surprising feature of the Korean winter is the large amount of sunshine, averaging as much as six to seven hours a day. Even when temperatures remain below freezing all day the sun may shine from a clear blue sky while the cold is intensified by the strong wind. Hours of sunshine are rather less during the wetter period in summer. The strong wind-chill factor intensifies the cold so that warm winter clothing is essential. Otherwise the climate is not particularly uncomfortable and is generally healthy. Humidity is higher in the summer, and some days may feel distinctly muggy and uncomfortable.
Temperatures decrease from south to north, particularly in winter, so that South Korea is rather warmer than the north around the year. The tables for Seoul near the border with North Korea, and for Pusan in the south of the country, show the warmer conditions farther south.
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