North Hamgyong



North Hamgyong Province is the northern-most province in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The region borders South Hamgyong to the south-east and Ryanggang to the east. The province is separated from China's Jilin Province by the Tumen River which runs along its northern border. To the east of North Hamgyong is the East Sea of Korea (Sea of Japan).

North Hamgyong formerly bordered Russia at the mouth of the Tumen river until 2010 when the Rason Special Economic Area was separated from the province to become a directly governed city.

The Hamgyong mountain range dominates the landscape. The range extends from the north-eastern tip of the provinces down into Ryangang Province where it meets the Machol Range and the Kaema Highlands.

The more level terrain in the province is located along the eastern seaboard where the province meets the East Sea and along the border with China along the Tumen River where the range ends at the Tumen river valley creating a small area of level ground. Due to these geographical phenomena, most population centres are either located along the coast such as Chongjin and  Kimchaek  or are located near or on the Tumen river such as the border city of Hoeryong.


Due to the extreme terrain, the region is not suitable for agriculture - therefore the dominant economic driver in the province is heavy industry. The capital city Chongjin carries the moniker 'City of Iron' due to its importance as a centre of manufacturing for the country.

The region is also significant for its capacity for international trade. The region has direct access to the international trading community through two large ports at Chongjin and Kimchaek as well as border crossings into China at Hoeryong and Namyang. The province is also in close proximity to the Rason Economic Zone which borders Russia and is the site of a rail crossing between the two countries at Tumangang station. This ability to import and export goods and materials is important in maintaining the heavy industry going on in the region. Raw materials are also obtained domestically through a series of mines located in the province - notably surrounding the city of Hoeryong.

A village located in North Hamgyong Province as photographed from a passing train.

Notable Sites

Most significantly - the Punggye-ri Nuclear Testing Facility is located in the Hamgyong mountains north of Kimchaek city in North Hamgyong Province. This is the site from which all of North Korea's nuclear tests have been conducted to date.

The Tonghae Satellite Launching Facility is a missile testing and launch site located on the east coast north-east of Kimchaek. The site was completed in 1985 to test longer-range missiles which were too powerful to be tested at the original test site in South Pyongan Province for fears that test missiles could land in Chinese territorial waters. Since completion, the site has continued to expand and was the site of the first claimed satellite launch from North Korea - the Kwangmyongsong-1.

Revolutionary History

One of the provincial cities, Hoeryong, is famous domestically for being the birthplace and hometown of the first wife of the President Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Suk. Having grown up on the northern border of North Hamgyong Province under Japanese occupation she later went on to fight the Japanese under the command of the President whom she would later marry in 1941.

The birthplace of Kim Jong Suk is visitable and is an important location in the country for locals due to her status as one of the 'Three Generals' alongside her husband the President Kim Il Sung and her son the General Kim Jong Il.


The province is also the site of one of the three 'Grand Monuments'. The Wangjaesan Grand Monument is located in the far north-east of the province near the Tumen River. It is built on the site of the 1933 Wangjaesan Conference and is the second-largest statue of the President Kim Il Sung in the country (after the Mansudae Grand Monument in Pyongyang).

The city centre in the provincial capital of Chongjin during a celebration.
View over the Hamgyong Range from Chilbosan
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