Abstract Seasonal variability of the M 2 tidal harmonic constants is revealed through analyses of monthly tidal data at 12 representative tidal stations in the seas adjacent to the Korean peninsula. The variability remain systematic over the 9 years (1965–1973) of data analysis with a range comparable to that of the 18.6 year nodal modulation. Spatial inhomogeneity of the seasonal variability in the observed harmonic constants is found to exist. The largest seasonal variability in M 2 appears in the stations located along the Korea Strait. This variability is not explained by the equilibrium theory of tides, and such a variability or irregularities in the harmonic constants are considered as either a noise as done by Cartwright and Amin (1986), Deutsch Hydrography Zeitschrift, 39, 235–253, or a manifestation of frictional interaction as done by Godin and Gutierrez (1986) Continental Shelf Research, 5, 379–402 for the Bay of Fundy. Considering the opposite relation between monthly mean sea level differences in Izuhara-Pusan section and tidal characteristics in the Korea Strait, it is hypothesized that the interaction between the predominant tidal currents and oceanic currents varying with the seasons might be the main cause of the observed temporal variability in the M 2 tide. The nonlinear effect of the Kuroshio is investigated along the shelf break region through scale analyses, which show that the presence of a mean current increases the non-linear terms in the momentum balance by about one order of magnitude. The seasonally different damping effect of the Tsushima Current to the M 2 tide is also discussed to explain the process of dominant seasonal variability along the Korea Strait based on the actual current data, but further thorough investigation, considering the advection effect of the mean current, is required to investigate the associated dynamics more completely.