Han River (Korea)

National Institute of Korean Language specifies the "Hangang" or "Hangang River" as official names.

Hangang River
Seoul satellite map.jpg
Satellite map of Hangang River
Tancheon Location Map.png
The Hangang River System
EtymologyBaekje Hanja,
"Hansu" (漢水)[a][1]
Native name한강 (Korean)
CountrySouth Korea (KOR), North Korea (PRK)
ProvincesGangwon (KOR), Gyeonggi (KOR), Seoul (KOR), North Hwanghae (PRK)
Physical characteristics
SourceTaebaek Mountains
 • locationGeumdae Peak, Taebaek, Gangwon, South Korea[b][2]
MouthYellow Sea
 • location
Northwestern tip of Gimpo peninsula, KOR-PRK border[3]
Length508 km (316 mi)[4]
Basin size35,770 km2 (13,810 sq mi)[4]
 • locationHangang Bridge, Seoul[c][5]
 • average613 m3/s (21,600 cu ft/s)[d][5]
Basin features
 • leftDalcheon, Cheongmicheon, Bokhacheon, Gyeongancheon, Anyangcheon, Ara Canal
 • rightSeom River, Bukhan River, Jungnangcheon, Gongneungcheon, Rimjin River
† : Distributary of Han
Hangang river
Revised RomanizationHan(-)gang

The Hangang River or Hangang (Korean pronunciation: [ha(ː)n.ɡaŋ])[e] is a major river in South Korea and the fourth longest river on the Korean peninsula after the Amnok (Yalu), Tuman (Tumen), and Nakdong rivers.[7] The river begins as two smaller rivers in the eastern mountains of the Korean peninsula, which then converge near Seoul, the capital of the country.

The Hangang River and its surrounding area have played an important role in Korean history. The Three Kingdoms of Korea strove to take control of this land, where the river was used as a trade route to China (via the Yellow Sea).[8] The river is no longer actively used for navigation, because its estuary is located at the borders of the two Koreas, barred for entrance by any civilian.

The river serves as a water source for over 12 million South Koreans. In July 2000, the United States military admitted to having dumped formaldehyde in the sewer system connected to the river, causing protests.[9]

The lower stretches of the Hangang River are lined with pedestrian walkways, bicycle paths, public parks and restaurants, particularly in Seoul. In a 2011 survey conducted by Seoul Development Institute of 800 residents and 103 urban planning and architectural experts, 51.3 percent of residents and 68.9 percent of experts voted the river the second most scenic location in the city, following Mount Namsan in the top spot.[10]


The Hangang is formed by the confluence of the Namhan River (South Hangang River), which originates in Mount Daedeoksan, and the Bukhan River (North Hangang River), which originates on the slopes of Kumgangsan Mountain in North Korea. The River flows through Seoul and then merges with the Imjingang River (or Rimjingang River) shortly before it flows into the Yellow Sea. The two major branches of the river, the Namhangang River and the Bukhangang River, come together at Yangpyeong,[11] Gyeonggi province, at which point it is referred to as the Hangang River. It then passes through Seoul and continues on to the Yellow Sea. Broad tidal flats can be found at the mouth of the Hangang River, where it meets the sea along the Korean Demilitarized Zone that divides South and North Korea.[12]

The total length of the Hangang River is approximately 494 kilometres (307 mi).[13][4]

Although it is not a long river, the lower Hangang is remarkably broad for such a relatively short river. Within Seoul city limits, the river is more than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) wide. Prior to the construction of a number of major dams, the river was known for its huge coefficient of river regime (ratio between the maximum and minimum amount of flow) of 1:390. (For comparison, The Thames and the Rhine have coefficients of 1:8 and 1:18, respectively.)[14]


The Namhangang (Namhan meaning "Southern Han" and gang meaning "river") is sometimes, but not always, referred to as the "Han" in South Korea. The term "Southern Han" is understood irrespective of which side of the border one stands.

Even though "Namhan" and "Bukhan" are homophones with the acronyms Namhan (남한; "South Korea") and Bukhan (북한; "North Korea"), used commonly in South Korea, this is a mere coincidence. The hanja for the Hangang River is not ("Korea") but (Chinese). The reason behind this is because the meaning of the native Korean "han" (한), in this instance meaning "great" "large" "wide", was transliterated into Hanja with the character also meaning "large", thus showing the reason why the river used the word instead of . It is also easily mistaken with the use of in Seoul's older name, "漢城" where does not refer to Chinese people, but refers to the idea of Seoul being the "walled city on the Han". As a result, Koreans rarely use 漢 because 韓 and 漢 sound the same (han), but the meaning is 韓 (han, 한, "Korean"), not "Han Chinese".

Hangang River has been called by different names through the course of Korean history. During the period of the Han Commanderies on the peninsula and the early part of the three kingdom's period the river was often referred to as the Daesu (대수; 帶水; "the Regional Waters"). The state of Goguryeo called it the Arisu (아리수; 阿利水; "The Gainful Waters"). Baekje called it the Ungniha (욱리하; 郁里河; "Fragrant Mile River"), while the kingdom of Silla termed it the Iha (이하; 泥河; "Muddy River").[15]


The Hangang River has played a central role in Korean history from the earliest times. The kingdom of Baekje was the first to lay claim to the Hangang River, recognizing its strategic significance as a primary waterway linking the central western region of the peninsula with the Yellow Sea. It was also recognized for the river's fertile alluvial banks, a relative rarity on the mountainous peninsula. Pungnaptoseong, located south of Seoul, is posited as an early capital of Baekje. It was not long before the region near the effluence of the Hangang River with the Yellow Sea, around present-day Seoul, became a bone of contention between Baekje and the rising kingdom of Goguryeo. During the reign of its King Jangsu (r. 413-491) Goguryeo wrested the western terminus of the Hangang River from its rival Baekje. The ensuing decades would see a tug-of-war over the region until 551 when Baekje, in an alliance with Silla, confirmed its control over the Hangang River basin. But this alliance was not to last, and in 553 Silla broke its alliance with Baekje to seize control of the entire river as part of its bid for domination of the peninsula.[16]

With the demise of both Baekje and Goguryeo and then the unification of the peninsula under Silla in 668, the Hangang River entered its long era as a "Korean river", first under the control of Unified Silla (668-918), then of the succeeding Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), and finally as part of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). During the Joseon period the Han River achieved new prominence as the primary waterway of the new Korean capital of Seoul, then called Hanyang.

South Korean president Syngman Rhee and his wife posing with US Army Corps of Engineers personnel at the Han River Bridge in 1950

Within the first week of the start of the Korean War the South Korean Army destroyed the Hangang Bridge in a bid to stem the advance of the invading North Korean military. In early 1951, there was a fair amount of fighting between Chinese People's Volunteer Army troops and US-led United Nations forces in the Hangang River area surrounding Seoul (refer to Operation Thunderbolt during the Korean War).

The Hangang River now belongs largely to the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, with its effluence in the Yellow Sea a few nautical miles from North Korea (though some of the river's tributaries are in North Korea). During the first few decades of South Korea's existence the Hangang River became a byword for pollution, as burgeoning industry and an impoverished populace used it as a convenient spillway for industrial and urban refuse. Though it no longer plays a central role in commerce or transportation it is a prime fixture in the life of the South Korean capital and in the last decade has become the focus of government sponsored environmental efforts to clean it up and transform it into an ecological jewel of the capital. During the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the Hangang River was the site of the Olympic rowing regatta.[17]

There have been fears, such as the 1986 Water Panic in South Korea, that North Korea could attack Seoul by releasing a flood from the upstream dam.[18]

In July 2000, the US military admitted to dumping 20 gallons (75.7 liters) of diluted formaldehyde in the sewer system connected to the river. As the river serves as a drinking source for some 12 million South Koreans, some South Koreans launched large protests and accused the US military of ignoring South Korea's environmental regulations. Activists lobbed toy rockets—filled with water from the river—into the main US Army base. The political party Green Party Korea had earlier accused the US of dumping nearly 60 gallons of the toxic chemical into the river, and said that "... if people are exposed to the chemical for a long period of time, it could cause lung cancer [and when] dissolved into water, it could kill fish and other aquatic creatures."[19][20] The events inspired Bong Joon-ho's acclaimed 2006 film The Host.

From 2009 the Lee Myung Bak administration resuscitated a project to dig a canal linking the Hangang River with the Yellow Sea at Incheon. This eighteen kilometer Ara Canal was completed in 2012[21] and now links the Han River near Gimpo in Seoul to Incheon. It can accommodate both large container and passenger vessels.

Joint Utilization ZoneEdit

On November 4, 2018, a 20-member team consisting of 10 people from North Korea and 10 people from South Korea began a joint inter-Korean survey which will lead to the development a Joint Utilization Zone along the Hangang River's estuary.[22][23] The Zone will allow civilians to access the estuary for tourism, ecological protection and the collection of construction aggregate under the protection of militaries from both sides of the Korean border.[22][23] On November 5, 2018, the councils of South Korea's Gangwon and Gyeonggi provinces, which border the DMZ, signed a “peace working agreement” at Dorasan Station in Paju, giving local approval to the Joint Utilization Zone.[24] The inter-Korean survey of the Han River's estuary was completed on December 9, 2018.[25] The new map of the river's estuary, which consists of newly discovered reefs, will made public by January 25, 2019.[25]

Tributaries of the Hangang RiverEdit

Tributaries are listed in order from the mouth of the Hangang to the source. Subtributaries are listed accordingly.

Jungnancheon meets Hangang, seen from Dongho Bridge

Bridges over the lower HangangEdit

A total of 31 bridges cross the Hangang River in Seoul National Capital Area (Seoul, Gyeonggi, Incheon), South Korea, are,

From the west to the east

Hangang Railway Bridge and Hangang Bridge

Subways crossing Hangang RiverEdit

In 2017, Line 8 will open to extension that will cross the Hangang River.[26]
In 2022, the Shinbundang Line will cross Hangang River by a tunnel beneath the riverbed.[27]

In mediaEdit

The Hangang River features as a location in several movies. Notable films include:

  • The Host (2006) in which the Wonhyo Bridge plays an important part. It is about a monster living along the Hangang River casting fear amongst the citizens of Seoul by attacking and eating them alive.
  • Castaway on the Moon (2009) in which Bamseom island is the island the main character finds himself stranded on.
  • Inchon (1981), which includes the destruction of the Hangang Bridge.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Presumed to be a tranliterated form of ancient Korean, "Hangaram" [the big river ; 한가람]
  2. ^ Geumdae Peak (1,418.1m, Korean금대봉; Hanja金臺峰; RRGeumdaebong)
  3. ^ Discharge average from 2004 to 2013.
  4. ^ Discharge average from 2004 to 2013.
  5. ^ In the 19th century, the Hangang was also known in English sources as the Han River or Hang Kang.[6]



  1. ^ 2013년 한국하천일람 [List of Rivers of South Korea, 2013] (PDF) (in Korean). Han River Flood Control Office, Republic of Korea. 31 December 2012. pp. 23–24. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2014. {{cite web}}: External link in |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ HRFCO 2012 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, pp. 25, 28.
  3. ^ HRFCO 2012 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, pp. 82-83.
  4. ^ a b c HRFCO 2012 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, pp. 22, 25, 33, 82-83.
  5. ^ a b 2014년 1월 월간 수자원 현황 및 전망 [Monthly Status & Predictions Report on Water Resources, January 2014] (in Korean). Han River Flood Control Office, Republic of Korea. 13 January 2014. p. 3. Archived from the original (HWP) on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2014. {{cite web}}: External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ EB (1878), p. 390.
  7. ^ Shin, Jung-il, "Historic River Flowing through the Korean Peninsula." Koreana (Summer, 2004), 6.
  8. ^ Liu, William Guanglin (31 August 2015). The Chinese Market Economy, 1000–1500. ISBN 9781438455679.
  9. ^ Kirk, Don (15 July 2000). "U.S. Dumping Of Chemical Riles Koreans". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "Mt. Namsan Picked as Seoul's No. 1 Scenic Attraction". Chosun Ilbo. 28 April 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Water, nature and people".
  12. ^ Kim Jae-il, "Preservation of the Hangang's Ecology", Koreana 18:2 (Summer 2004).
  13. ^ "Han River".
  14. ^ Korea Water Resources Association: "KWRA-Korea Water Resources Association". Archived from the original on 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  15. ^ Yi and Kim, 24.
  16. ^ "Three-Kingdom Era: Koreans bring culture to Japan". 25 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Seoul mates return to Korea – 25 years later".
  18. ^ North Korea Opens Dam Flow, Sweeping Away 6 in the South New York Times
  19. ^ "Hürriyet Daily News". Hürriyet Daily News.
  20. ^ Reports, From Times Wire (25 July 2000). "U.S. Apologizes for Dumping Chemical" – via LA Times.
  21. ^ 김태민; 이병협 (May 2013). "경인 아라뱃길의 과거와 현재, 그리고 미래". 대한토목학회지 (in Korean). 61 (5): 78–81.
  22. ^ a b "(LEAD) Koreas begin joint waterway survey along western border". 5 November 2018.
  23. ^ a b Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Two Koreas begin joint waterway inspection on shared use of Hangang River Estuary". YouTube.
  24. ^ "South and North launch joint hydrographic survey of Han and Imjin estuaries".
  25. ^ a b "Two Koreas Complete Joint Waterway Survey of River Estuaries l KBS WORLD Radio".
  26. ^ Bak, Yongson (2011-05-04). "경기북부 연장 광역전철 '윤곽 잡혔다'". Yonhap News. Retrieved 7 Sep 2011.
  27. ^ "Tunnel sees daylight" (Korean Newspaper). Korea Joogang Daily. Retrieved 11 May 2011.


  • "Corea" , 'Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. VI, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878, pp. 390–394.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 37°45′N 126°11′E / 37.750°N 126.183°E / 37.750; 126.183