People, namely people who do not happen to live in North Korea, often see the country as a large monolithic block. And while the regional variation in the DPRK may not be what it is in the Chinese provinces, there are still some differences to make note of. It has been said that we are our surroundings. From the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to the shores of Chilbosan in North Hamgyong, here are the provinces of North Korea.
Area (km2): 16,765
The site of the Manpo border crossing at the city of Ji’an in the Jilin Province of China. Chagang borders China across the Tumen River. It also borders the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin, a home away from home for many ethnic Koreans in the region. To see Yanbian and the rest of the mysterious territory that is the Sino-Korean borderlands, check out our All Koreas Tour Part 1: North Koreans Borderlands Tour.
Area (km2): 15,980
With its capital, Chongjin being the third largest city and the steel mill of the nation, Chongjin is also thought of as one of the most naturally picturesque of the provinces. The Hamgyong mountains jutting out against a backdrop of the Chilbo Sea are seen by many as a national treasure. As the site of North Korea’s only homestay village, this must-visit province is featured on any of our Rason and North East Tours.
Area (km2): 18,534
One of the more closed provinces to tourists. Little is known about the inner workings in South Hamgyong apart from the fact that the economy is largely centered around the fishing industry, as it claims the longest coastline of any of the North Korean provinces. Check out this truly off-the-beaten-path province on the Unseen DPRK Tour.
Area (km2): 8,154
Of as much situational importance today as it was during the Korean War, the territory holds much of the territory in the beltway between Seoul and Pyongyang. The capital, Sariwon, features a Pagoda on Mount Kyongnam, overlooking the city. The highlight, however for us, is a visit to Grandpa and Grandma Makgeolli, where you can try some authentic home-brewed North Korean Makgeolli. Explore Sariwon, and the wider province of North Hwanghae, en route to the DMZ on one of our many tours, or as an extension.
Area (km2): 8,450
The great south-western coastal province is the most fertile in the land. During food shortages in the 1990s, the province was able to weather the hardship far better than some of its northern counterparts, whose rocky terrain made growing crops especially difficult. Its vast archipelago is also something you can check out if you should pass through on your way to the DMZ on any Ultra Budget Tour Extension, or visit the capital, Haeju on our Haeju City extension.
Area (km2): 11,091
Home of Wonsan, the largest and busiest port in North Korea. Kangwon forms a unique geographical sphere with its southern counterpart Gangwon, as Gangwon rests largely above the 38th parallel and was part of the DPRK until 1953. To visit, join the Liberation Day Summer Tour, Unseen DPRK, Wonsan City Beach Extension or the Korean Language Study Tour.
Area (km2): 12,680
The site of Sinuiju, the largest city on the border of China and North Korea. You’re guaranteed to visit this northwestern province on any train journey into North Korea. The bulk of the province is separated from China by the Yalu river, and is said to share the strongest cultural ties with China. To see Sinuiju and the little-visited town of Dongrim, check out our Overnight in Sinuiju Tour or any of the Sinuiju Extensions that we offer.
Area (km2): 11,890
The capital of this province, Pyongsong, is one of the largest trade hubs outside of Pyongyang, featuring taxis with solar panels and Kim Il Suk Middle School Number 1. This centrally-located province is a feature on most of our tours. Book a spot of Summer Liberation Day, Victory Day and the Grand National Day and Northeast Tour.
Area (km2): 13, 880
Ryanggang is the site of the legendary Mount Paektu, a place of marked national and cultural value to the North Koreans. Vast mountain ranges along the border with Jilin Province in China largely define this little-known corner of North Korea. It is said that the industrial towns of this region powered the nation through the 20th century. However, since the hardships endured in the 1990s, they have failed to retain their former productivity. To get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Mount Paektu, sign up for our Mount Paektu Summer Tour.