North Korea Hit by Magnitude 3.8 Earthquake near Pyonggang

A 3.8 magnitude earthquake was recorded in North Korea's Kangwon Province at 7:45 p.m. local time today, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

Preliminary data estimated the epicenter to be approximately 23 miles northwest of Pyonggang, with some shockwaves being felt in regions of South Korea.

According to the Korea Herald, the KMA said the earthquake, initially recorded as a 4.0, appeared to be "natural" and not the result of military operations or nuclear testing. The South's KMA reportedly sent a mobile alert about the quake.

The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) initially recorded the quake as a 4.0 magnitude and at a depth of 6.2 miles, according to Reuters.

Social media was quickly utilized to spread news of the quake.

"3.8 natural earthquake near Pyeonggang County, Gangwon Province," tweeted user Jaehwan Cho. "[It is] very close to S. Korea's Gangwon province. Some people in Seoul have felt aftershocks because of this. But no specific damages so far in Seoul."

"So an earthquake just happened in North Korea nearish the border with SK, only around 100 k.m. away from Seoul. I can't say I felt anything but the alert was really loud," another user on the platform said, referencing the mobile notification.

S.Korean Meteorological Administration sent this mobile alert saying 4.0 earthquake near Pyeonggang County in N.Korea. But this administration downgrades magnitude of this earthquake to 3.8 after this alert.

— Jaehwan Cho 조재환 (@hohocho) May 11, 2020

Just felt an earthquake. Map shows the epicenter in North Korea near Wonsan.

— Ralph Barbour (@BarbourRalph) May 11, 2020

3.8 Natural earthquake near Pyeonggang County, Gangwon Province in N.Korea. Which locate very close to S.Korea’s Gangwon province. Some people in Seoul have felt aftershocks because of this. But no specific damages so far here in Seoul. More updates later.

— Jaehwan Cho 조재환 (@hohocho) May 11, 2020

Hugh ran out of the bathroom because he saw the alert was about North Korea and half thought a missile was coming for us. But just an earthquake.

— Nichola (MKH) (@MyKoreanHusband) May 11, 2020

Yonhap News Agency reported last month the Korean Peninsula was hit by at least four earthquakes at magnitude 2.1 or larger in a span of just three days. The KMA said at the time that there did not appear to be a connection between the occurrences.

In January, a smaller natural earthquake in North Korea was tied to the reclusive nation's nuclear testing back in 2017, meteorological officials in the South said. The tremor, a magnitude 2.5, hit southeast of a former test site known as Punggye-ri.

"The terrain of the area was so solid that there were no natural earthquakes before the sixth nuclear test," a KMA official said, Yonhap News Agency reported. "As the nuclear test's energy affected the geological features of the area, natural earthquakes have continued to occur," he added. Punggye-ri is now believed to be shuttered.

In May 2018, ahead of the since-stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S., Pyongyang claimed to have destroyed tunnel sections of the nuclear facility, in scenes witnessed by western and South Korean journalists, but not independent scientists.

The Financial Times reported some scientists suggested Punggye-ri was useless as it had caved in and was potentially leaking radiation after a 100-kiloton nuclear test the prior September. Other analysts said it was a way to destroy evidence.

Regardless of operational status, however, there have been more than a dozen natural earthquakes close to the site since 2017, including at least two throughout 2019.

This article has been updated with additional information and context.

Stock photo of a seismograph. A magnitude 3.8 earthquake has been recorded in North Korea. iStock