Seoul is the capital of South Korea. With a municipal population of over 10.5 million, and a metropolitan population totaling over 20.5 million, Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters.
Situated on the Han River, Seoul's history stretches back more than two thousand years when it was founded in 18 BCE by Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. It continued as the capital of Korea under the Joseon Dynasty. The Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.
Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River which transformed it to the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$845.9 billion in 2014 after Tokyo, New York City and Los Angeles.
A fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge digital technology, home to endless street food vendors and vast nightlife districts, an extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples, a dynamic trend-setting youth culture and often crushing conformism, extraordinary architecture and endless monotonous rows of grey apartment buildings, Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts, contradictions, and paradoxes.
Seoul hosted the 1986 Asian Games, 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, the Miss Universe 1980 pageant, and the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. A UNESCO City of Design, Seoul was named the 2010 World Design Capital.
|POPULATION :||City: 10,117,909 / Metro: 25,620,000|
|TIME ZONE :|
|LANGUAGE :||Korean, English ( Widely spoken)|
|RELIGION :||Protestantism 22.8%, Buddhism 16.8%, Catholicism 14.2%, Other or none 46.2%|
|AREA :||605.21 km2 (233.67 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||38 m (125 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||37°34′N 126°58′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.35% |
• Female: 50.65%
|ETHNIC :||Korean 98%, Others 2% (Chinese, Japanese etc.)|
|AREA CODE :||2|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+82 2|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
With over 10 million people, a figure that doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.
In recent years, Seoul has become a favourite with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. However, this travel destination, long popular among Asians, is still relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong.
However, the traveler who does visit will not be disappointed. This sprawling metropolis is truly vast - though the casual traveler can see most of the main sites in a few days, a dedicated traveler could spend months exploring all the alleyways and far-off neighborhoods. As the capital of a country that has gone through massive development in the past sixty years, Seoul is constantly changing at an incredible pace, matched only by the mainland Chinese cities. This frantic pace of life is reflected everywhere - in Seoul's cutting-edge digital technology, in the millions of commuters rushing to work everyday in the world's third largest subway system, in one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in the world, and in the thousands of high rises and apartment buildings still under construction.
While Seoul today is mostly known as a super-modern mega-city that is home to skyscrapers, malls, and millions of electronic-mad Koreans, the city contains over 2,000 years of history. The city contains 4 UNESCO sites marking important monuments from its 505 years as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Until recently, it was a walled city with 20 ft stone walls and narrow lanes inside. Though many buildings were destroyed or damaged during the violent events of the first half of the 20th century, much of its historic core remains. So, anyone staying in Seoul should visit the many historical treasures the city has to offer, including the many palaces and city gates within the Jongno district.
South Korea is a major shopping destination for Chinese and Japanese these days, with many dedicated duty free shops available in Seoul. Korean Won, Japanese Yen and US dollars are accepted, along with major credit cards. Most shops have staff who can speak Japanese. There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.
Settlement of the Han River area, where present-day Seoul is located, began around 4000 BC.
Seoul is first recorded as Wiryeseong, the capital of Baekje (founded in 18 BC) in the northeastern Seoul area.There are several city walls remaining in the area that date from this time. Pungnaptoseong, an earthen wall just outside Seoul, is widely believed to have been at the main Wiryeseong site.
In the 11th century Goryeo, which succeeded Unified Silla, built a summer palace in Seoul, which was referred to as the "Southern Capital". It was only from this period that Seoul became a larger settlement.When Joseon replaced Goryeo, the capital was moved to Seoul (also known as Hanyang and later as Hanseong), where it remained until the fall of the dynasty. The Gyeongbok Palace, built in the 14th century, served as the royal residence until 1592. The other large palace, Changdeokgung, constructed in 1405, served as the main royal palace from 1611 to 1872.
In the late 19th century, after hundreds of years of isolation, Seoul opened its gates to foreigners and began to modernize. Seoul became the first city in East Asia to introduce electricity in the royal palace, built by the Edison Illuminating Company and a decade later Seoul also implemented electrical street lights.
Much of the development was due to trade with foreign countries like France and United States. For example, the Seoul Electric Company, Seoul Electric Trolley Company, and Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company were all joint Korean–American owned enterprises.
After the annexation treaty in 1910, the Empire of Japan annexed Korea and renamed the city Gyeongseong ("Kyongsong" in Korean and "Keijo" in Japanese). Japanese technology was imported, the city walls were removed, some of the gates demolished. Roads became paved and Western-style buildings were constructed. The city was liberated at the end of World War II.
In 1945, the city was officially named Seoul, and was designated as a special city in 1949.
During the Korean War, Seoul changed hands between the Russian/Chinese-backed North Korean forces and the American-backed South Korean forces several times, leaving the city heavily damaged after the war. The capital was temporarily relocated to Busan.One estimate of the extensive damage states that after the war, at least 191,000 buildings, 55,000 houses, and 1,000 factories lay in ruins. In addition, a flood of refugees had entered Seoul during the war, swelling the population of the city and its metropolitan area to an estimated 1.5 million by 1955.
Following the war, Seoul began to focus on reconstruction and modernization. As Korea's economy started to grow rapidly from the 1960s, urbanization also accelerated and workers began to move to Seoul and other larger cities.From the 1970s, the size of Seoul administrative area greatly expanded as it annexed a number of towns and villages from several surrounding counties.
Seoul was the host city of the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Summer Olympics as well as one of the venues of the Football World Cup 2002.
Seoul has a humid continental climate.
November–May is more akin to a continental climate while the warmer months are more like a warmer climate with elements of a tropical wet/dry climate.
Summers are generally hot and humid, with the East Asian monsoon taking place from June until September. August, the warmest month, has an average temperature of 22.4 to 29.6 °C (72 to 85 °F) with higher temperatures possible.
Winters are often cold to freezing with an average January temperature of −5.9 to 1.5 °C (21.4 to 34.7 °F) and are generally much drier than summers, with an average of 28 days of snow annually. Sometimes, temperatures do drop dramatically to below −10.0 °C (14.0 °F), in odd occasions rarely as low as −15.0 °C (5.0 °F) in the mid winter period between January and February.
|Daily highs (°C)||1.5||4.7||10.4||17.8||23.0||27.1||28.6||29.6||25.8||19.8||11.6||4.3|
|Nightly lows (°C)||-5.9||-3.4||1.6||7.8||13.2||18.2||21.9||22.4||17.2||10.3||3.2||-3.2|
Korea Meteorological Administration
Seoul is in the northwest of South Korea. Seoul proper comprises 605.25 km2, with a radius of approximately 15 km (9 mi), roughly bisected into northern and southern halves by the Han River. The Han River and its surrounding area played an important role in Korean history. The Three Kingdoms of Korea strove to take control of this land, where the river was used as a trade route to China (via the Yellow Sea).The river is no longer actively used for navigation, because its estuary is located at the borders of the two Koreas, with civilian entry barred.
The city is bordered by eight mountains, as well as the more level lands of the Han River plain and western areas. Due to its geography and to economic development policies, Seoul is a very polycentric city. The area that was the old capital in the Joseon Dynasty, and mostly comprises Jongno District and Jung District, constitutes the historical and political center of the city. However, for example, the city's financial capital is widely considered to be in Yeouido, while its economic capital is Gangnam District.
Seoul is the business and financial hub of South Korea.
The traditional, labour-intensive manufacturing industries have been continuously replaced by information technology, electronics and assembly-type of industries, however, food and beverage production, as well as printing and publishing remained among the core industries. Major manufacturers are headquartered in the city, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia and SK. Notable food and beverage companies include Jinro, whose soju is the most sold alcoholic drink in the world, beating out Smirnoff vodka, top selling beer producers Hite (merged with Jinro) and Oriental Brewery. It also hosts food giants like Seoul Dairy Cooperative, Nongshim Group and Lotte.
Seoul hosts large concentration of headquarters of International companies and banks, including 15 companies on fortune 500 list such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai. Most bank headquarters and the Korea Exchange are located in Yeouido (Yeoui island),which is often called "Korea's Wall Street" and has been serving as the financial center of the city since the 1980s.
The largest wholesale and retail market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market, is located in Seoul. Myeongdong is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul with mid- to high-end stores, fashion boutiques and international brand outlets. The nearby Namdaemun Market, named after the Namdaemun Gate, is the oldest continually running market in Seoul.
Insadong is the cultural art market of Seoul, where traditional and modern Korean artworks, such as paintings, sculptures and calligraphy are sold. Hwanghak-dong Flea Market and Janganpyeong Antique Market also offer antique products. Some shops for local designers have opened in Samcheong-dong, where numerous small art galleries are located. Itaewon caters mainly to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city. The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul and is noted for the fashionable and upscale Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong areas and the COEX Mall. Wholesale markets include Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market and Garak Market. The Yongsan Electronics Market is the largest electronics market in Asia.
Times Square is one of Seoul's largest shopping malls featuring the CGV Starium, the world's largest permanent 35 mm cinema screen.
Seoul is divided into 25 districts:
Dobong District (도봉구; 道峰區)
Dongdaemun District (동대문구; 東大門區)
Dongjak District (동작구; 銅雀區)
Eunpyeong District (은평구; 恩平區)
Gangbuk District (강북구; 江北區)
Gangdong District (강동구; 江東區)
Gangnam District (강남구; 江南區)
Gangseo District (강서구; 江西區)
Geumcheon District (금천구; 衿川區)
Guro District (구로구; 九老區)
Gwanak District (관악구; 冠岳區)
Gwangjin District (광진구; 廣津區)
Jongno District (종로구; 鍾路區)
Jung District (중구; 中區)
Jungnang District (중랑구; 中浪區)
Mapo District (마포구; 麻浦區)
Nowon District (노원구; 蘆原區)
Seocho District (서초구; 瑞草區)
Seodaemun District (서대문구; 西大門區)
Seongbuk District (성북구; 城北區)
Seongdong District (성동구; 城東區)
Songpa District (송파구; 松坡區)
Yangcheon District (양천구; 陽川區)
Yeongdeungpo District (영등포구; 永登浦區)
Yongsan District (용산구; 龍山區)
Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) (pr: pee-shee-bang) are ubiquitous in Seoul, and usually cost anywhere from ₩800-2,000/hr.
Most have printers at the front desk. These places cater chiefly to gamers, which translates into fairly fast computers, loud sound systems and large screens. Most PC rooms have smoking sections. Typically, the computers run a Korean version of Windows XP and use Internet Explorer.
Console gaming (Xbox 360, PS3) is widely available, and for those with proficiency in Korean language, you might also be able to enjoy a round of online gaming; the fantasy MMORPG Lineage was created in Korea and a slew of MMORPG titles not available anywhere else can be found here.
Post offices are basically everywhere in Seoul, although many are hidden on smaller roads and alleys. If you cannot spot any post office nearby, it is good idea to visit university (every university has its own post office in it). The Korean postal insignia is orange and white. It can be spotted on post office signs.Some post offices are open on Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays (postal service only). Most post offices sell boxes and packing materials. Even the smaller offices typically have at least one English-speaking member of staff.