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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

38th parallel north

South Korean and UN troops withdraw behind the 38th parallel in the Korean War.
Korean name
Hangul 삼팔선
Hanja 三八線
Revised Romanization Sampalseon
McCune–Reischauer Samp'alsŏn

The 38th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean. The 38th parallel north has been especially important in the recent history of Korea.



The 38th parallel was first suggested as a dividing line for Korea in 1896.[1] Russia was attempting to pull Korea under its control, while Japan had just secured recognition of its rights in Korea from the British. In an attempt to prevent any conflict, Japan proposed to Russia that the two sides split Korea into separate spheres of influence along the 38th parallel. However, no formal agreement was ever reached, and Japan later took full control of Korea.

The left side of the boundary in this image belongs to South Korea while the right side belongs to North Korea

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, the parallel was established as the boundary by Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel of the US State-War Navy Coordinating Committee in Washington during the night of 10-11 August 1945, four days before the complete liberation of Korea. The parallel divided the peninsula roughly in the middle. In 1948, the dividing line became the boundary between the newly independent countries of North and South Korea. On 25 June 1950, North Korean forces crossed the parallel and invaded South Korea, sparking the Korean War.[2]

After the ceasefire that effectively ended the Korean War in 1953, a new border was established through the middle of the Demilitarized Zone, which cuts across the 38th parallel at an acute angle, from southwest to northeast. The 38th parallel was also the place where the ceasefire was called to end the fighting.


Starting at the Prime Meridian heading eastwards, the 38th parallel north passes through:

Co-ordinates Country, territory or sea Notes
38°0′N 0°0′E / 38°N 0°E / 38; 0 (Prime Meridian) Mediterranean Sea Passing just north of the island of Marettimo,  Italy
38°0′N 12°19′E / 38°N 12.317°E / 38; 12.317 (Italy)  Italy Islands of Levanzo and Sicily
38°0′N 15°25′E / 38°N 15.417°E / 38; 15.417 (Mediterranean Sea) Mediterranean Sea Strait of Messina
38°0′N 15°38′E / 38°N 15.633°E / 38; 15.633 (Italy)  Italy
38°0′N 16°8′E / 38°N 16.133°E / 38; 16.133 (Mediterranean Sea) Mediterranean Sea Ionian Sea - passing between the islands of Kefalonia and Zakinthos,  Greece
38°0′N 21°16′E / 38°N 21.267°E / 38; 21.267 (Greece)  Greece Passing through Athens
38°0′N 24°2′E / 38°N 24.033°E / 38; 24.033 (Aegean Sea) Aegean Sea
38°0′N 24°14′E / 38°N 24.233°E / 38; 24.233 (Greece)  Greece Islands of Petalioi and Euboea
38°0′N 24°34′E / 38°N 24.567°E / 38; 24.567 (Aegean Sea) Aegean Sea Passing just north of the island of Andros,  Greece
38°0′N 27°7′E / 38°N 27.117°E / 38; 27.117 (Turkey)  Turkey
38°0′N 44°17′E / 38°N 44.283°E / 38; 44.283 (Iran)  Iran
38°0′N 48°55′E / 38°N 48.917°E / 38; 48.917 (Caspian Sea) Caspian Sea
38°0′N 53°49′E / 38°N 53.817°E / 38; 53.817 (Turkmenistan)  Turkmenistan
38°0′N 55°17′E / 38°N 55.283°E / 38; 55.283 (Iran)  Iran
38°0′N 57°22′E / 38°N 57.367°E / 38; 57.367 (Turkmenistan)  Turkmenistan Passing just north of Ashgabat
38°0′N 66°38′E / 38°N 66.633°E / 38; 66.633 (Uzbekistan)  Uzbekistan
38°0′N 68°17′E / 38°N 68.283°E / 38; 68.283 (Tajikistan)  Tajikistan
38°0′N 70°19′E / 38°N 70.317°E / 38; 70.317 (Afghanistan)  Afghanistan
38°0′N 71°16′E / 38°N 71.267°E / 38; 71.267 (Tajikistan)  Tajikistan
38°0′N 74°54′E / 38°N 74.9°E / 38; 74.9 (China)  People's Republic of China Xinjiang
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Shanxi - passing just north of Taiyuan
Hebei - passing just south of Shijiazhuang
38°0′N 118°58′E / 38°N 118.967°E / 38; 118.967 (Yellow Sea) Yellow Sea Passing just north of Baengnyeong Island,  South Korea
38°0′N 125°7′E / 38°N 125.117°E / 38; 125.117 (North Korea)  North Korea Ongjin Peninsula
38°0′N 125°35′E / 38°N 125.583°E / 38; 125.583 (Yellow Sea) Yellow Sea Ongjin Bay
38°0′N 125°46′E / 38°N 125.767°E / 38; 125.767 (North Korea)  North Korea
38°0′N 126°49′E / 38°N 126.817°E / 38; 126.817 (South Korea)  South Korea
38°0′N 128°44′E / 38°N 128.733°E / 38; 128.733 (Sea of Japan) Sea of Japan (East Sea)
38°0′N 138°14′E / 38°N 138.233°E / 38; 138.233 (Japan)  Japan Island of Sado
38°0′N 138°33′E / 38°N 138.55°E / 38; 138.55 (Sea of Japan) Sea of Japan (East Sea)
38°0′N 139°14′E / 38°N 139.233°E / 38; 139.233 (Japan)  Japan Island of Honshū
38°0′N 140°55′E / 38°N 140.917°E / 38; 140.917 (Pacific Ocean) Pacific Ocean
38°0′N 123°1′W / 38°N 123.017°W / 38; -123.017 (United States)  United States California
West Virginia
38°0′N 76°28′W / 38°N 76.467°W / 38; -76.467 (Chesapeake Bay) Chesapeake Bay
38°0′N 75°53′W / 38°N 75.883°W / 38; -75.883 (United States)  United States Maryland
38°0′N 75°16′W / 38°N 75.267°W / 38; -75.267 (Pacific Ocean) Atlantic Ocean Passing between São Miguel and Pico islands, Azores,  Portugal
38°0′N 8°51′W / 38°N 8.85°W / 38; -8.85 (Portugal)  Portugal
38°0′N 7°12′W / 38°N 7.2°W / 38; -7.2 (Spain)  Spain
38°0′N 0°39′W / 38°N 0.65°W / 38; -0.65 (Mediterranean Sea) Mediterranean Sea
Points on parallel 38° north

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Nash, Gary B., The American People (6th edition), Pearson Longman (New York), 2008.

Further Reading

  • Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. (1997)



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