The development process of the Korean coastal mountain range: Examination from spatial distribution of knickzones

Jongmin Byun, Kyungrock Paik

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Along the eastern margin of the Korean Peninsula, a coastal mountain range spanning over 800 km with summits above 1500 m faces the East Sea (or Sea of Japan), the back-arc sea behind the Japanese Islands. Two contrasting hypotheses exist regarding the tectonic history of this coastal mountain range: long-lasting and progressive uplifts from the Early Tertiary to the Late Quaternary, and a short and intensive uplift during the Early Miocene. However, to date, no consensus has been reached. Here, we studied the spatial distribution of knickzones to understand the formation period and development pattern of this coastal mountain range. We extracted the knickzones in a drainage basin from digital elevation models, and investigated whether or not they are transient knickzones induced by the development of the coastal mountain range. We found that all identified knickzones were stationary, which was verified by slope-area and chi-elevation analyses. This implies that sufficient time has passed for all transient knickzones relevant to the growth of the mountain range to migrate up to the catchment boundary and disappear. We then calculated the time spent for the migration of transient knickzones from the outlet to their stream heads to be at least 5.1 to 10.6 Myr. Therefore, our results suggest that the current form of the coastal mountain range had been built at least before 5.1 Myr ago and has reached a quasi-equilibrium state up to the present, thus invalidating the prevailing hypothesis of the long-lasting and progressive development until the Late Quaternary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-563
Number of pages23
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • East Sea
  • Knickzone
  • Korean Peninsula
  • Taebaek Mountain Range
  • back-arc basin
  • coastal mountain range
  • passive continental margin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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