Seoul Travel Guide


Seoul is first recorded as Wiryeseong, the capital of Baekje from its legendary founding in 18 BC. It was known as Hanseong (漢城, "fortified city the Han [River") during the Goryeo period. During the Joseon period, beginning in 1394, it was the capital, called Hanyang (漢陽)). It was called Gyeongseong (京城, Japanese: Keijō) during the Japanese occupation, and finally named Seoul after the 1945 liberation.

Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, was founded in 18 BC, with its capital at Wiryeseong in the Seoul area. There are several city walls remaining in the area that date from this time. Pungnap Toseong, an earthen wall just outside Seoul, is widely believed to have been the main Wiryeseong site. As the Three Kingdoms competed for this strategic region, control passed from Baekje to Goguryeo in the 5th century, and from Goguryeo to Silla in the 6th century.

In the 11th century Goryeo, which succeeded Unified Silla, built a palace in Seoul, which was referred to as the "Southern Capital".

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.

Originally, the city was entirely surrounded by a massive circular wall (a 20-foot-high circular stone fortress) to provide its citizens security from wild animals such as the tiger, thieves and attacks. The city has grown beyond those walls and although the wall no longer stands (except in the mountains north of the downtown area), the gates remain near the downtown district of Seoul, including most notably Sungnyemun (commonly known as Namdaemun) and Honginjimun (commonly known as Dongdaemun). During the Joseon dynasty, the gates were opened and closed each day, accompanied by the ringing of large bells.

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 have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at the same time. Much of this 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. In 1904, an American by the name of Angus Hamilton visited the city and said, "The streets of Seoul are magnificent, spacious, clean, admirably made and well-drained. The narrow, dirty lanes have been widened, gutters have been covered, roadways broadened. Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the highest, most interesting and cleanest city in the East.”

After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the Empire of Japan annexed Korea and renamed the city "Keijo". The city was liberated at the end of World War II.

During the Korean War, Seoul changed hands between the Chinese-backed North Korean forces and the UN-backed South Korean forces several times, leaving the city heavily damaged after the war. 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 Seoul and its metropolitan area to an estimated 2.5 million, more than half of them homeless.

Following the war, Seoul was the focus of an immense reconstruction and modernization effort due mainly to necessity, but also due in part to the symbolic nature of Seoul as the political and economic centre of Korea. In 1963, the size of Seoul administrative area greatly expanded as it annexed a number of towns and villages from several surrounding counties in Gyeonggi Province, such as Bucheon, Siheung, Gwangju, Yangju, and Gimpo. Today, the population of the Seoul area makes up 24% of the total population of South Korea, and Seoul ranks seventh in the world in terms of the number of Fortune 500 transnational companies headquartered there.

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.

source: Wikipedia

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