Fault reactivation and propagation during the 2017 Pohang earthquake sequence

Jin Han Ree, Kwang Hee Kim, Hobin Lim, Wooseok Seo, Sungshil Kim, Xiangyi An, Young Hee Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A commission of the Korean government on the 2017 Mw 5.5 Pohang earthquake concluded that seismic activity was triggered by fluid injection from the nearby Pohang enhanced geothermal system. The temporal and spatial distribution of hypocenters (depth range of 3–6 km) was recorded by our local seismic array for 345 days. It included, in addition to the mainshock, 10 foreshocks and 3090 aftershocks, indicating a complex geometry of propagating rupture segments, including the main segment and four subsidiary segments (SS1 to SS4). The fault kinematics of the earthquake sequence were dominated by strike and reverse slips. The aftershock sequence showed a decrease in frequency during the first 83 days after the mainshock, in accordance with Omori's law. This was followed by a sudden surge in aftershock frequency associated with the ML 4.6 event (11 February 2018), and another decay following Omori's law. The aftershock surge of the ML 4.6 event corresponds to the development of SS4. A calculation of the Coulomb stress change caused by the mainshock shows that a significant increase in stress occurred around SS4, thus suggesting that rupture along this segment was triggered by the mainshock. With respect to the current stress field, all rupture planes apart from that of SS4 are optimally oriented for reactivation, highlighting the potential risk associated with fluid injection into this fault.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102048
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank two reviewers for their constructive comments that improved the earlier version of the manuscript. This work was supported by the Nuclear Safety Research Program through the Korea Foundation of Nuclear Safety (KoFONS) using financial resources granted by the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) of the Republic of Korea (No. 1705010 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • 2017 Pohang earthquake
  • Enhanced geothermal system
  • Fault reactivation
  • Fluid injection
  • Slip tendency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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