38th parallel

38th parallel north

The 38th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. The 38th parallel north has been especially important in the recent history of Korea.


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

Country, territory or sea Notes
Mediterranean Sea
Island of Sicily and a small amount of the mainland
Mediterranean Sea Ionian Sea
Aegean Sea Including the Greek islands of Petalioi and Euboea
Caspian Sea
Yellow Sea
Sea of Japan
Islands of Sado and Honshū
Pacific Ocean
West Virginia
Chesapeake Bay
Atlantic Ocean Passing between São Miguel and Pico islands in the Azores ()
Mediterranean Sea


The 38th parallel was first suggested as a dividing line for Korea in 1902. 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.

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 10-11 August 1945 4 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. At the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), 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 cease-fire was called to end the fighting.

United States

Landmarks close to the parallel include Point Reyes Lighthouse, San Rafael, California, Pinole, California, Martinez, California, Antioch, California, Stockton, California, Mono Lake, Tonopah, Nevada, Hell's Backbone Bridge, Utah, La Junta, Colorado, Garden City, Kansas, Hutchinson, Kansas, Rolla, Missouri, Evansville, Indiana, Lexington, Kentucky, University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and the boundary between the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

See also


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

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