International Crane Foundation


Han River

White-naped Cranes, Han River

White-naped Cranes take flight over the Han River estuary. Photo by S.N. Yoon

Why We Care

Han River locator mapThe Han River flows from the south-central mountains of the Korean peninsula, through Seoul, and then marks the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea before emptying into the Yellow or West Sea. The estuary of the Han is guarded by tall chain link fences topped with rolls of razor wire that separate 23 million people in the greater metropolitan area of Seoul from the extraordinary mudflats and meadows that are home for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill and many other breeding waterbirds of international concern, and provide critical wintering habitat for several hundred White-naped Cranes and Swan Geese.


What We Do

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When reunification comes to the divided peninsula, the Han River estuary is slated for seaport development. ICF is working with Korean colleagues toward a different future, in which the DMZ becomes an international peace park that permanently secures these lands for biodiversity conservation and world heritage.


Han estuary developmentFuture development of the Han River estuary, such as this highway to the east of the river, will destroy mudflats used by waterbirds.


White-naped Cranes have wintered in Korea’s Han River estuary for centuries. The cranes come for the tubers of flat-stalk bulrush (Scirpus planculmis) in the wetlands and tidbits of leftover rice in surrounding rice paddies. The Han River crosses the southwest corner of the DMZ, the buffer between North and South Korea. Created at the end of the Korean War, the DMZ is still closed, making it an ideal, if unplanned wildlife refuge.

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Swan geese, Han River

Swan geese, Han River estuary. Photo by C.S. Kwon