The five northwestern bordering islands
Giving hope to the blue ocean The five islands protecting the northwest region
There is a place that can be enjoyed for hours, while watching waves and seagulls from land. At the end of the yellow sea, there are islands that are mysterious as we learn more. Watching the invisible ocean boundaries, there are people dreaming of unification.
<Northern most point of the five northwestern islands, Dumujin rock, Baengnyeongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
The five islands protecting the northwestern sea above the ocean excluding the DMZ
On July 27th 1953, new lines and space such as the MDL, civilian control area, and the borderline area appeared on the Korean Peninsula together with a ceasefire agreement. Then, how about in the sea? If there were non-accessible lines on the land by South and North, shouldn’t it be the same in the sea?
‘The five northwestern islands’ is the area covering Yeonpyeongdo, Soyeonpyeongdo, Baengnyeondo, Daecheongdo and Socheongdo Islands, and nearby seas. The five northwestern islands began its history as the security center of the Korean sea, around the same time the DMZ appeared for the first time. The protected zone of the military installations within the five northwestern islands takes up 40.3% of the Ongjin-gun’s sea area, and 93.5% of the five northwestern islands’ total area. That’s how close the five northwestern islands are to North Korean land. Daecheongdo and Socheongdo islands are 202km away from Incheon, but it is only 19km away from Jangsan point, Hwanghaenam-do. The distance from Baengnyeongdo Island to Incheon is 222.2km and 15km from Jangsan point, Hwanghaenam-do, while Yeonpyeongdo and Soyeonpyeongdo Islands are 145km from Incheon, which is the closest distance from Incheon among the five northwestern islands. But it is just 10km away from Bupo-ri, Hwanghaenam-do.
■ The five northwestern islands’ geographical overview
Yeonpyeongdo, Soyeonpyeongdo Island
Daecheongdo, Socheongdo Island
East longitude 125° 43′
North latitude 37° 40′
East longitude 124° 53′
North latitude 37° 52′
East longitude 124° 43′
North latitude 37° 48′
• Distance from Incheon 145㎞
• Distance from Bupo-ri, Hwanghaenam-do 10㎞
• Distance from Incheon 222.2㎞
• Distance from Jangsan point 15㎞
• Distance from Incheon 202㎞
• Distance from Jangsan point 19㎞
Second northern limit line that exists in Korea, NLL
There are two Northern limit lines existing in Korea with different backgrounds and nature, even though they share the same name. One is two kilometers north from the MDL, forming the DMZ of North Korea. It is a correspondence concept of the southern limit line, which is set two kilometers south. Another NLL exists on the narrow sea between the five northwestern border islands and the North Korean territory. The familiar NLL to us usually signifies the NLL on the ocean, not the one on land. When did the NLL become known in the ocean, and what was the difference with the NLL on land?
韩国有着相同名称但诞生背景与性格不同的两个北方限界线。一个是以军事分界线为准往北后退2公里的地点设定，形成北韩方面的DMZ的北方限界线。这是跟向南后退2公里地点设定的南方警戒线相对应的概念。另一个北方限界线位于西海五岛与北韩之间窄海上。对我们熟悉的NLL（Northern Limit Line）大部分不是陆地上，而是北方限界线。海上的北方限界线是什么时候形成，跟陆地的北方限界线有什么不同呢？
The NLL in the Ocean was not formed by the ceasefire agreement. In August 1953, which was after the ceasefire agreement, UN forces Commander Mark Clark notified the North after pulling out navy troops from regions in the Yellow Sea, located North of the MDL’s western extension line and arbitrarily forming the NLL, including the five northwestern islands. And North didn’t bring up any claims. After that, the NLL was practically approved by the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement, saying that “regulate the MDL which is regulated by the NLL and controlled area by both sides”. The NLL in the sea is not an actual MDL that is specified in the ceasefire protocol, but it is a MDL in reality.
<Geographical location of the five northwestern border islands>
The report of the abundant ecological resources, isolated but not a lonesome island
It is located in the isolated area in the sea that can be reached after several hours of sea voyage from Incheon, but it is not a lonely island. The northernmost island of the western sea, the Baengnyeongdo Island, is the 8th largest island in our country with 5,431 residents (October, 2015). Also, the values of the five northwestern border islands are geographically and ecologically recognized for keeping important natural views and ecosystems. There are geomorphic landscapes such as large-scale sand seashores and sea cliffs as well as a Basalt Area with high geological value. Moreover, it is the southernmost habitat of the west coast’s only marine mammal, the Baengnyeong Spotted Seal, and a paradise for migratory birds such as the stork and mallard where they arrive in flocks. The Baengnyeongdo Islands, Dumujin black sandy beach, is designated as a place of scenic beauty and protection. There are lots of plants, beaches and unique topography, which are designated and supervised as natural monuments.
<True seals, Baengnyeongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
As the coastal area is located at the center of the Korean Peninsula, researching the local nature in the five northwestern border islands is changing. The development potential of this area is very high as it is the pass-through area of the main ocean traffic network. It is also a special ecological environment area where diverse ecosystems are created. If the South and North’s economic cooperation becomes activate and is supported, it is expected to have significant meaning as Korea’s another territorial resource.
Get to know more about the five northwestern border islands
■ Baengnyeongdo Island
Baengnyeongdo Island is the northernmost island only 17km away from North Korea and our closest region to China. Historically, it has played a role as being a stopover between Korea-China sea route through the period of the Three States and Koryo Dynasty. As an administrative district, it is Baengnyeong-myeon, Ongjin-gun, Incheon and the 8th largest island. There are sea cliffs developed around the Dumujin area, a gravel shore called the Kongdol Beach, and a coastal landform such as the Sagot-dong sandy tideland where the sand is hard enough to drive cars along, and the sandy coasts are well developed. At the seaside of Jinchon-ri, Spotted Seals inhabit near the national monument, as well as the Siberian water pepper, which is a northern plant, which only grows on Baengnyeongdo Island. It is also reported the following lives in the ecosystem; The Stork, Spoonbill, Chinese Egret, Bean Goose, and falcon, which are classified as endangered wild animals and plants. There are various Unified Security Trails and tourist spots such as the unification, praying tower, unification praying headstone and Simcheonggak.
<The big burp rock, Baengnyeongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
■ Daechongdo Island
Geographically, it is located near the Southern Limit line (SLL), northwest of Ganghwado Island and Daecheong-myeon, Ongjin-gun, Incheon as the administrative district. Overall, it is made up of steep inclined mountain areas and a monotonous coastline. Daecheongdo Island is known as a good island to rest because of its clean sandy beaches and beautiful surrounding sceneries. During early spring, it is a great spectacle to see the red camellia flowers blooming, which can be seen (natural monument no.66) near Satan-dong beach, which is the northern most habitat of South Korea. A sand pile, which can’t be seen easily in Korea is formed here together with a big size coastal dune, number of sand beaches and long sand banks creating an exotic atmosphere. Fisheries are well formed around coastal areas where lots of skate, rockfish, rock trout, abalone, sea cucumber and other seafood is caught.
<Nongyeo beach, Daecheongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
■ Socheongdo Island
It is a long island stretching from the east to the west and belongs to Daecheong-myeon, Ongjin-gun, Incheon being the administrative district. Socheongdo Island is famous for its fishing spots, with various abundant marine products. Also, the ‘Bunbawi Rock’, which is named after its whitish color like it is powdered and harmonizing with the blue sea, is magnificently spread along the coastline. Bunbawi Rock also known as ‘Woltti’. It plays a role as a direction guide for ships entering the village during the final night of a lunar month. At Socheongdo Island, you can find Korea's second built lighthouse. Camping is possible around the lighthouse area where you can enjoy a romantic vacation by watching the flickering light at night.
<Bunbawi Rock, Socheongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
■ Yeonpyeongdo Island
Yeonpyeongdo Island, which is at the opposite side of North Korea’s Ongjin Peninsula, got its name from the flat shape where it looks like a train running on the ocean. There are many attractions in Yeonpyeongdo Island. The ‘Papillon Cliff’, which looks like a cliff where papillons escaped and the ‘Ice cream rock’, which looks like an ice cream when snow and seawater freezes during the cold winter, both catches tourists’ attention. A story relating to General Im Gyeong-eop is passed down at the Chungminsa Shrine on Yeonpyeongdo Island. In the middle of the Joseon Dynasty, General Im Gyeong-eop stopped over at Yeonpyeongdo Island on the way to strike the Qing dynasty. It tells us that croacker fishing flourished at Yeonpyeongdo Island because croackers were caught by a thorn during his stop over back then. Chungminsa Shrine was built to express all the thankfulness shown towards General Im Gyeong-eop.
<Ice cream rock of Yeonpyeongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
■ Soyeonpyeongdo Island
Soyeonpyeongdo Island is a small island with a surface of 0.236㎢, adjoined to Yeonpyeongdo Island. It is 6.4km south from Yeonpyeongdo Island and its magnificent view is formed along the 4.7km coastline with strange rocks and limestone such as Eolgulbawi Rock. Fish like bass, croaker, herring and rockfish are caught, as well as plenty shellfish such as oyster and conch near the seas in the area. Potato, corn and sweet potato are cultivated in the farmlands, but it is especially famous for their sweet potato’s great quality. Also, titanium, which is hard enough for usage to replace iron, is produced and there is a titanium gravelly field along the Oseok seaside, which is known for its fomentation effect.
<The complete view of Soyeonpyeongdo Island> Photo by Ongjin County Office
December 1, 2014
December 5, 2015
December 3, 2016
Research on the five northwest border islands’ total development plan establishment (2011), Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, Ministry of Public Administration and Security
Natural environment of the five northwest border islands (2012), Natural Resources Research Division of National Institute of Environmental Research, Ministry of Environment
West sea’s South and North border line area plan for use to create the peace belt (2004), Kim Young-bong•Lee Moon-won•Cho Jin-cheol, Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements
Good islands for vacation Best 30 (2008), Regional Development Division of Ministry of Public Administration and Security
Guideline of security experience at the five Northwest border islands (Ongjin-gun), (2014), Development Division of Ministry of Public Administration and Security
Ongjin-gun tourism culture (www.ongjin.go.kr)
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