Seismic Activity on Korean Peninsula Surges by 50 Percent in 2023, Report Finds

SEOUL — A significant uptick in seismic activity was observed on the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding seas in 2023, with earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater increasing by approximately 50 percent over the annual average of previous years. This surge in seismic events was detailed in a report released by the Korea Meteorological Administration on Monday.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the region experienced 106 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.0 or higher last year. This figure starkly contrasts with the annual average of 70.8 earthquakes recorded since the implementation of the digital earthquake instrumentation system in 1999. The report indicates that 2023's total was the fourth highest on record, following years 2016, 2017, and 2018, which saw 252, 223, and 115 earthquakes, respectively.

The increase in seismic activity in 2023 is attributed primarily to a series of earthquakes in the East Sea from April to October, as well as seismic events in Kilju, a county in North Korea. Kilju is notable for housing a nuclear testing site, suggesting a possible link between the testing activities and the frequency of earthquakes in the area.

In addition to the overall increase, the number of earthquakes reaching a magnitude of 3.0 or stronger also rose to 16 last year, surpassing the yearly average of 10.4. Despite the increase in more noticeable quakes, the occurrence of smaller earthquakes, with magnitudes less than 2.0, remained consistent with the average, totaling 706. These minor tremors are generally not felt by humans.

The strongest earthquake reported in 2023 occurred on May 15, with a magnitude of 4.5. This earthquake originated 52 kilometers northeast of Donghae, a coastal city, and was followed by 16 foreshocks and aftershocks of magnitude 2.0 or stronger. In total, including microearthquakes, the May event was preceded or followed by 63 tremors.

Kilju, located in the northeast of North Korea, was notably active with 33 recorded earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 or stronger last year. The frequent seismic activity in Kilju is believed to be related to the ground conditions, which have likely been altered by six nuclear tests conducted in the area, rather than being due to natural geological predispositions for earthquakes.

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