38th parallel north

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38th parallel north
Revised RomanizationSampalseon
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Line across the Earth
38th parallel north
38th parallel north
Revised RomanizationSampalseon

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.

At this latitude the sun is visible for 14 hours, 48 minutes during the summer solstice and 9 hours, 32 minutes during the winter solstice.[1]

Around the world[edit]

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

Co-ordinatesCountry, territory or seaNotes
38°0′N 0°0′E / 38.000°N 0.000°E / 38.000; 0.000 (Prime Meridian)Mediterranean SeaPassing just north of the island of Marettimo,  Italy (at 37°59′43″N 12°1′47″E / 37.99528°N 12.02972°E / 37.99528; 12.02972 (Marettimo))
38°0′N 12°19′E / 38.000°N 12.317°E / 38.000; 12.317 (Italy) ItalyIslands of Levanzo and Sicily
38°0′N 15°25′E / 38.000°N 15.417°E / 38.000; 15.417 (Mediterranean Sea)Mediterranean SeaStrait of Messina
38°0′N 15°38′E / 38.000°N 15.633°E / 38.000; 15.633 (Italy) Italy
38°0′N 16°8′E / 38.000°N 16.133°E / 38.000; 16.133 (Mediterranean Sea)Mediterranean SeaIonian Sea - passing between the islands of Kefalonia (at 38°4′N 20°43′E / 38.067°N 20.717°E / 38.067; 20.717 (Kefalonia)) and Zakynthos (at 37°56′N 20°42′E / 37.933°N 20.700°E / 37.933; 20.700 (Zakynthos)),  Greece
38°0′N 21°16′E / 38.000°N 21.267°E / 38.000; 21.267 (Greece) GreecePassing through Athens (northern suburbs)
38°0′N 24°2′E / 38.000°N 24.033°E / 38.000; 24.033 (Aegean Sea)Aegean Sea
38°0′N 24°14′E / 38.000°N 24.233°E / 38.000; 24.233 (Greece) GreeceIslands of Petalioi and Euboea
38°0′N 24°34′E / 38.000°N 24.567°E / 38.000; 24.567 (Aegean Sea)Aegean SeaPassing just north of the island of Andros (at 37°59′57″N 24°47′23″E / 37.99917°N 24.78972°E / 37.99917; 24.78972 (Andros)),  Greece
38°0′N 27°7′E / 38.000°N 27.117°E / 38.000; 27.117 (Turkey) Turkey
38°0′N 44°17′E / 38.000°N 44.283°E / 38.000; 44.283 (Iran) Iran
38°0′N 48°55′E / 38.000°N 48.917°E / 38.000; 48.917 (Caspian Sea)Caspian Sea
38°0′N 53°49′E / 38.000°N 53.817°E / 38.000; 53.817 (Turkmenistan) Turkmenistan
38°0′N 55°17′E / 38.000°N 55.283°E / 38.000; 55.283 (Iran) Iran
38°0′N 57°22′E / 38.000°N 57.367°E / 38.000; 57.367 (Turkmenistan) TurkmenistanPassing just north of Ashgabat
38°0′N 66°38′E / 38.000°N 66.633°E / 38.000; 66.633 (Uzbekistan) Uzbekistan
38°0′N 68°17′E / 38.000°N 68.283°E / 38.000; 68.283 (Tajikistan) Tajikistan
38°0′N 70°19′E / 38.000°N 70.317°E / 38.000; 70.317 (Afghanistan) Afghanistan
38°0′N 71°16′E / 38.000°N 71.267°E / 38.000; 71.267 (Tajikistan) Tajikistan
38°0′N 74°54′E / 38.000°N 74.900°E / 38.000; 74.900 (China) People's Republic of ChinaXinjiang
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Shaanxi − for around 5 km
Inner Mongolia − for around 14 km
Shanxi — passing just north of Taiyuan
Hebei — passing just south of Shijiazhuang
38°0′N 118°58′E / 38.000°N 118.967°E / 38.000; 118.967 (Yellow Sea)Yellow SeaPassing just north of Baengnyeong Island (at 37°59′N 124°41′E / 37.983°N 124.683°E / 37.983; 124.683 (Baengnyeong)),  South Korea
38°0′N 125°7′E / 38.000°N 125.117°E / 38.000; 125.117 (North Korea) North KoreaOngjin PeninsulaHwanghaenam-do
38°0′N 125°35′E / 38.000°N 125.583°E / 38.000; 125.583 (Yellow Sea)Yellow SeaOngjin Bay
38°0′N 125°46′E / 38.000°N 125.767°E / 38.000; 125.767 (North Korea) North KoreaHwanghaenam-do
38°0′N 126°49′E / 38.000°N 126.817°E / 38.000; 126.817 (South Korea) South KoreaGyeonggi-do
38°0′N 128°44′E / 38.000°N 128.733°E / 38.000; 128.733 (Sea of Japan)Sea of Japan
38°0′N 138°14′E / 38.000°N 138.233°E / 38.000; 138.233 (Japan) JapanIsland of Sado:
Niigata Prefecture
38°0′N 138°33′E / 38.000°N 138.550°E / 38.000; 138.550 (Sea of Japan)Sea of Japan
38°0′N 139°14′E / 38.000°N 139.233°E / 38.000; 139.233 (Japan) JapanIsland of Honshū:
— Niigata Prefecture
Yamagata Prefecture
Miyagi Prefecture
38°0′N 140°55′E / 38.000°N 140.917°E / 38.000; 140.917 (Pacific Ocean)Pacific Ocean
38°0′N 123°1′W / 38.000°N 123.017°W / 38.000; -123.017 (United States) United StatesCalifornia
West Virginia
38°0′N 76°28′W / 38.000°N 76.467°W / 38.000; -76.467 (Chesapeake Bay)Chesapeake Bay
38°0′N 75°53′W / 38.000°N 75.883°W / 38.000; -75.883 (United States) United StatesMaryland
38°0′N 75°16′W / 38.000°N 75.267°W / 38.000; -75.267 (Pacific Ocean)Atlantic OceanPassing between Pico (at 38°23′N 28°14′W / 38.383°N 28.233°W / 38.383; -28.233 (Pico)) and São Miguel (at 37°55′N 25°47′W / 37.917°N 25.783°W / 37.917; -25.783 (São Miguel)) islands, Azores,  Portugal
38°0′N 8°51′W / 38.000°N 8.850°W / 38.000; -8.850 (Portugal) PortugalSetúbal District
Beja District - passing just south of Beja
38°0′N 7°12′W / 38.000°N 7.200°W / 38.000; -7.200 (Spain) SpainAndalusia
Region of Murcia - passing just north of Murcia
Valencian Community
38°0′N 0°39′W / 38.000°N 0.650°W / 38.000; -0.650 (Mediterranean Sea)Mediterranean Sea


The 38th parallel was first suggested as a dividing line for Korea in 1896.[2] The Russian Empire was attempting to pull Korea under its control, whereas the Japanese Empire had just gained recognition of its rights in Korea from the British Empire. In an attempt to prevent any conflict, the Japanese government proposed to the Russian Empire that the two sides split Korea into two disjoint spheres of influence along the 38th parallel. However, no formal agreement was ever reached, and the Japanese Empire took full control of Korea in 1910.

The land on the left side of the boundary in this picture belongs to South Korea while on the right side it belongs to North Korea

After the surrender of Japan in August 1945, the 38th parallel was established as the boundary by Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel of the U.S. State Department - War - Navy Coordinating Committee in Washington, D.C. during the night of the 10th of August 1945, four days before the liberation of Korea. This parallel divides the Korean peninsula roughly in the middle. In 1948, this parallel became the boundary between the newly created countries of North Korea and South Korea. On 25 June 1950, after a series of cross-border raids and gunfire from both the Northern and the Southern sides, the North Korean Army crossed the parallel and invaded South Korea. This sparked a United Nations resolution against the aggression and the Korean War, with United Nations troops (mostly Americans) helping to defend South Korea.[3]

During World War II, the Korean Liberation Army had been preparing an assault against the Japanese Army that was occupying Korea — in conjunction with U.S. Office of Strategic Services — but the Surrender of the Japanese Empire canceled the execution of this plan. The Korean government's and U.S. government's goals had been achieved with Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945, formalized in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. See Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.

There remains much confusion regarding the actual date of the surrender of Japan. However, it was on 2 September 1945 that the Japanese Empire signed the Instrument of Surrender. American attacks on the Japanese mainland, including by aerial bombing and strafing, continued through the morning hours of 15 August 1945, despite claims by some sources that the U.S. was aware as early as 10 August 1945 of the Japanese Emperor's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Accord (effectively indicating surrender).

This suggests, but does not indicate, that the language of the article about the Provisional Korean government referred (however imprecisely) to the surrender of Japanese forces controlling or otherwise operating in Korea. Regardless, 2 September 1945 was more than three weeks after the "night of 10 – 11 August 1945" date indicated in the above paragraph.

In addition, at least one source[4] indicates that U.S. President Harry S. Truman did not present the 38th Parallel as the recommended boundary for the division of the Korean peninsula until 15 August 1945, and that Russian Marshal Josef V. Stalin did not agree to this proposal until 16 August 1945.

After the Armistice ended the Korean War in 1953, a demarcation line was established through the middle of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. This boundary line crosses the 38th parallel, from the southwest to the northeast, and it now serves as the Military Demarcation Line between South Korea and North Korea.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]