A Look at South Korea's Topography

Incheon International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and has been consistently recognized globally as one of the best and cleanest airports, due to its golf course, spa, ice skating rink, Korean culture museum, private sleeping rooms, and duty free shopping areas to entertain the many visitors it receives daily.

One of the focal and more interesting characteristics of the Korean topography is that the land consists of 70% mountains and mountain ranges. With a current population of 51.3 million (2019) and a land mass approximately the size of Indiana (about 100,032 square kilometers), this translates to having too many people in a limited amount of habitable land. Thus, there is a strong cultural movement towards conserving space and making use of space as effectively as possible. As a point of comparison, in the United States, most houses are bungalow-type units with yards and are built with families in mind. Throughout U.S. history, buying homes has been greatly encouraged by the government. Even apartment rentals are quite spacious. College students that decide to rent an apartment commonly need to room with other people. I would say that in the U.S., we expand horizontally, meaning we take advantage of our land by transforming unchartered territory.

However, in Korea, especially in the major cities, apartment complexes in the form of tall buildings are more common. It is also common to see restaurants, offices and stores all in the same building. Instead of having one physical store per business, the businesses just occupy different floors. There is no concept of “downtown” and “the suburbs.” Commercial and residential areas co-exist, with some areas just receiving higher foot traffic than others.