In North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) the climate is continental, with freezing and sunny winters, and hot and rainy summers.
The country is affected by the monsoon circulation: during winter the cold northwest wind of Siberian origin prevails, while in summer it is replaced by southern currents of tropical origin.
This explains the precipitation regime of North Korea, which for example is opposite to that of the Mediterranean: the driest months are those of winter, while the highest amount of rainfall is recorded in July and August. The rains brought by the summer monsoon can sometimes be very abundant and cause flooding (as happened for example in August 2007 or in July 2012).
In summer and in early autumn, the country can be reached by typhoons.

Index


The plains


Pyongyang

The capital Pyongyang is located on the western side, about forty kilometres (25 miles) away from the Yellow Sea coast. In winter, during cold spells, the temperature can drop below -20 °C (-4 °F); in January 2001 it dropped to -26.5 °C (-15.5 °F). Summer is sultry, with peaks of 34/35 °C (93/95 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Pyongyang - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-10-7-16121721211580-7
Max (°C)-13918232729292518102
Min (°F)141930435463707059463219
Max (°F)303748647381848477645036

In Pyongyang, precipitation averages 940 millimetres (37 inches) per year, therefore it's quite abundant, although it is concentrated from May to September; in winter it is scarce, and given the temperatures, it occurs in the form of snow.
Here is the average precipitation.
Pyongyang - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)101025507090275215100403515940
Prec.(in)0,40,4122,83,510,88,53,91,61,40,637
Days5457891411767690

The amount of sunshine in North Korea is not scarce, actually it is decent or good in winter, and also in spring and autumn, when there are several sunny days, while in summer it decreases a bit, because of the summer monsoon, which brings bad weather periods. Here are the average daily sunshine hours in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours677888677765

The sea in North Korea, very cold in winter, becomes warm enough for swimming in summer, especially in August, at least on the west side (Yellow Sea). Here the temperature of the sea at Nampo.
Nampo - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)5337111722252319149
Temp (°F)413737455263727773665748

On the east coast (Sea of Japan), the sea temperature in summer is 1-2 degrees Celsius lower, and reaches 23 °C (73 °F) in August; in the northeast it becomes even cooler, reaching a maximum of 21 °C (70 °F) in August.

Pyongyang

Along the coasts, the weather is a bit milder, besides at a given latitude the east coast, on the Sea of Japan, is milder than the western coast, on the Yellow Sea.

Wonsan

Here are the average temperatures of Wonsan, located on the east coast, at the same latitude as Pyongyang.
Wonsan - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-6-4-281217212116104-3
Max (°C)251016212527272319115
Min (°F)212528465463707061503927
Max (°F)364150617077818173665241

In Wonsan, 1,250 mm (50 in) of rain fall per year; in particular the month of September is still very rainy.
Wonsan - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)352525408013528021021512055301250
Prec.(in)1,4111,63,15,3118,38,54,72,21,249,2
Days545781215121076495

Southeast of Wonsan, winter becomes even less cold: in Kosong, at the foot of Mount Kumgang (see below), the average of January goes up to 0 °C (32 °F).
On the contrary, on the north-eastern coast, near the border with Russia, the climate becomes colder, both for the higher latitude, and for the presence of a cold sea current, called Liman current.

Sonbong

Here are the average temperatures of Sonbong, located on the coast, near the border with Siberia, and 150 km (90 mi) from Vladivostok. As you can see, here spring is very cool, if not cold, and summer is not particularly warm.
Sonbong - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-11-9-328131718125-2-8
Max (°C)-4-24101517222421146-1
Min (°F)121627364655636454412818
Max (°F)252839505963727570574330

Mountains



Mount Paektu

In the interior of North Korea there are mountainous areas, where the climate gets even colder, and in winter, in the worst moments the temperature can plunge to -40 °C (-40 °F). The highest ranges are found in the northeast, and are the Rangrim mountains, whose highest peak is Wagalbong, 2,260 metres (7,415 ft) high, and the Hamgyong Mountains, which include several peaks over 2,000 metres (6,500 feet); the highest is Mount Kwanmo, 2,540 metres (8,333 feet) high.
However, the highest peak of the country, and the sacred mountain for Koreans, is Mount Paektu, also known as Baekdu or Baitou, located in the northeast, on the border with China, and 2,744 metres (9,003 ft) high. It is a volcano, and its centre is occupied by a caldera lake, called "Heaven Lake", which was formed after the big eruption of 946 AD. Snow may cover the top until June.
Here are the average temperatures of Samjiyon, situated at 1,350 metres (4,400 feet), at the foot of Mount Paektu.
Samjiyon - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-24-22-15-61612102-5-13-21
Max (°C)-11-9-2715182120158-1-9
Min (°F)-11-85213443545036239-6
Max (°F)121628455964706859463016

Another famous mountain is Mount Kumgang, 1,638 metres (5,374 ft) high, located in the south-east, a short distance from the border with South Korea, in the area having a milder climate, and where access is allowed to tourists from South Korea. There is a characteristic landscape of rock formations; in winter you can find frozen waterfalls.

Mount Kumgang

Typhoons

As mentioned, during the summer the DPRK can be reached by typhoons, the tropical cyclones of East Asia. Typically, typhoons affect Korea from July to early October (and more rarely also in the second half of June), with a higher probability in the first half of September. Since typhoons come from the south, they affect more directly South Korea, and that is where they bring the strongest winds and the most intense sea storms; usually, in North Korea they mostly bring heavy rains, which are added to those of the summer monsoon, and can cause landslides and floods.

When to go



Considering the winter cold as well as the heat and the rains of summer, the best times to visit North Korea are spring and autumn, in particular the months of May and October, though in October it may already get cold in the northern mountainous and inland areas (where June and September are preferable).

What to pack



In winter: very warm clothes, such as a down jacket, gloves, a scarf, a hat. Especially for inland and mountainous areas, clothing for extreme cold, thermal underwear, a parka, a jacket in Gore-Tex, gloves, a hat, a scarf.

In summer: light clothing, a light sweatshirt, a light raincoat or umbrella, a scarf for the wind. In the hills and the northeast, a sweatshirt and a light jacket for the evening; in high mountains, a jacket and a sweater.

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