|— Metropolitan City —|
|Seoul Special City|
|- Hangul||서울 특별시|
|- Hanja||서울 特別市|
|- Revised Romanization||Seoul Teukbyeolsi|
|- McCune-Reischauer||Sŏul T'ŭkpyŏlsi|
|- Type||Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|- Mayor||Oh Se-hoon|
|- Metropolitan City||605.25 km2 (233.7 sq mi)|
|- Metropolitan City||10,421,782|
|- Density||17,219/km2 (44,597/sq mi)|
Seoul is the capital and largest city of South Korea. With a population of over 10 million, It is one the the world's largest cities. The registered population of the South Korean provinces and urban municipalities which includes the major port city of Incheon and satellite towns in Gyeonggi-do, has 24.5 million inhabitants and is the world's second largest metropolitan area.
Almost half of South Korea's population live in the Seoul National Capital Area, and nearly a quarter in Seoul itself, making it the country's chief economic, political and cultural center. As a Special City, Seoul is administered directly by the national government and is divided into 25 major districts.
The city is located on the basin of the Han River in the country's northwest. The North Korean border lies about 50 km to the north. Seoul first appears in history in 18 BC, when the Baekje, one of the Three Korean Kingdoms, established its capital Wirye-seong in what is now south-east Seoul. Modern Seoul descends from the Goryeo-era city of Namgyeong, which then became the capital of Korea during the Joseon dynasty. The Seoul National Capital Area includes three World Heritage sites: Changdeokgung, hwaseong Fortress and the Jongmyo Shrine.
The city has hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Seoul's influence as a leading Business and cultural center contributes to it's status as a major global city.It is also the fifth most expensive city in the world and the second most expensive city in Asia.
In recent years, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has undertaken major environmental projects, including the nearly $1 billion restoration of Cheonggyecheon. At the same time, the city has promoted the Seoul Digital Media City, the world's first complex for high-tech digital technologies in IT, multimedia and entertainment.
The city has been known in the past by the names Wirye-seong (위례성; 慰禮城, Baekje era), Hanju (한주;漢州, Silla era), Namgyeong (남경; 南京, Goryeo era), Hanseong (한성; 漢城, Baekje and Joseon era), Hanyang (한양; 漢陽, Joseon era), Gyeongseong (경성;京城, Joseon and Japanese Occuapation era). Its current name originated from the Korean word meaning "capital city," which is believed to be derived Seorabeol (서라벌;), which originally referred to Gyeongju, the capital of Silla.
Unlike most place names in Korea, "Seoul" has no corresponding hanja (Chinese characters used in the Korean language). The recently-chosen Chinese name for Seoul is 首尔 (simplified), 首爾 (traditional) (Shǒuěr), which sounds somewhat similar to "Seoul" when pronounced in Mandarin Chinese.
The history of Seoul can be traced back as far as 18 BC, when it was established as a settlement in Baekje, Wirye-seong. It's believed that the Wirye-seong site is in the boundaries of modern day Seoul and Present Pungnap Toseong or Mongchon Toseong remains believed as the site. It has thereafter been the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul as a capital of Korea, has a history of more 600 years since 1394 the year it was designate as a capital of Joseon Dynasty. In the Japanese colonization period in the early 20th century, many historical and traditional parts of Seoul were changed. The city was almost entirely destroyed in the Korean War, but an aggressive economic policy in the 1960s and 1970s helped to rebuild the city very rapidly. In the 1990s, some important historical buildings were restored, including Gyeongbokgung, one of the royal palaces of the Joseon dynasty.
Seoul is in northwest South Korea. Seoul proper comprises 605.39 km² of area, 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). However, the river is no longer actively used for navigation, because its estuary is located at the borders of the two Koreas, barred for entrance by any civilian. The city is bordered by eight mountains, as well as the more level lands of the Han River plain and western areas.
In common with the rest of South Korea, Seoul has a humid continental climate, despite the fact that the country is surrounded on three sides by water. Summers are generally hot and humid, with monsoons taking place from June until July. August, the hottest month, has an average temperature of 72 °F to 86 °F (22°C to 30°C) with higher temperatures possible. Winters are often very cold with an average January temperature of 19 °F to 33 °F (-7°C to 1°C) and are generally much drier than summers, although there are 28 days of snow in Seoul in each year on average.
The traditional heart of Seoul is the old Joseon Dynasty city, which is now the downtown area, where most palaces, government offices, corporate headquarters, hotels, and traditional markets are located. This area occupies the valley of Cheonggyecheon, a stream that runs from west to east through the valley before emptying into the Han River. For many years, the stream had been covered by concrete, but was recently restored through an urban revival project. To the north of downtown is Bukhan Mountain, and to the south is the smaller Namsan. Further south are the old suburbs of Yongsan-gu and Mapo-gu, and the Han River. Across the Han River are the newer and wealthier areas of Gangnam-gu,Seocho-gu and surrounding neighborhoods. The World Trade Center of Korea is located in Gangnam-gu and this is where many expositions and conferences are held. Also in Gangnam-gu is the COEX Mall, a large indoor shopping and entertainment complex. Downstream from Gangnam-gu is Yeouido, a large island that is home to the National Assembly, major broadcasting studios, and a number of large office buildings, as well as the Korea Finance Building and the world's largest Pentecostal church. Adjacent to Yeouido is Bamseom an uninhabited island in the middle of the river. The Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, and Lotte World are located in Songpa-gu, on the south side of the Han River, upstream from Gangnam-gu. South of the sprawling Gangnam area are Namhan Mountain,Cheonggye Mountain and Gwanak Mountain.
Major modern landmarks include the Korea Finance Building, N Seoul Tower, the World Trade Center, the 63 Building and the six-skyscraper residence Tower Palace. These and various high-rise office buildings, like the Seoul Star Tower and Jongno Tower, dominate the city's skyline. Due to its high density, Seoul has been equipped with a grand appearance of skyscrapers and the city council is now planning on building a series of high-rises, including 580-metre business center in Sangam Digital Media City district and an 800-metre Lotte World 2 Tower in the Jamsil (pronounced "Jam-shil") district of Songpa-gu and Gangdong-gu.
Urban and civil planning was a key concept when Seoul was first designed to serve as a capital in the late 14th century. The Royal Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty still remain in Seoul, with the main palace, Gyeongbokgung currently being restored to its original form. Today, there are eight major subway lines stretching for more than 250 kilometers, with a ninth and tenth line being planned, and also some other miscellaneous lines.
The most historically significant street in Seoul is Jongro, meaning "Bell Street," on which one can find Bosingak, a pavilion containing a large bell. The bell signaled the different times of the day and therefore controlled the four major gates to the city. The only time it is normally rung nowadays is at midnight on New Year's Eve, when it is rung thirty-three times. It was, however, rung on the day that President Kim Dae-jung took office.
Seoul's most important streetcar line ran along Jongno until it was replaced by Line 1 of the subway system in the early 1970s. Other notable streets in downtown Seoul include Euljiro (을지로Teheranno, Tehran Street), Sejongno (세종로;), Chungmuro (충무로;), Yulgongno (율곡로;), and Toegyero (퇴계로;).
Seoul is divided into 25 gu 구 (district) The gu vary greatly in area (from 10 to 47 km²) and population (from less than 140,000 to 630,000). Songpa has the most people, while Seocho, the largest area. The government of each gu handles many of the functions that are handled by city governments in other jurisdictions. Each gu is divided into Dong 동 or neighbourhoods. Some gu have only a few dong while others like Jongno-gu have a very large number of distinct neighborhoods. Gu of Seoul consist of 522 administrative dongs (행정동) in total. Dong are also sub-divided into 13,787 tong 통, which are further divided into 102,796 ban in total.
Nearly all of Seoul's residents are Korean, with some small Chinese and Japanese minorities. A rapidly growing population of international residents now represent about 2% of the total population.
As the headquarters for Samsung, LG and Hyundai, Seoul has become a major business hub in Asia. Although Seoul accounts for only 0.6 percent of South Korea's land area, it generates 21 percent of the country's entire GDP. With a GDP of over $200 billion, It is the fourth largest in Asia and one of the top twenty largest in the world.
As a major business and financial center, Seoul ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of Fortune Global 500 transnational companies headquartered there. Many international banks have branches in Seoul, including Citigroup, HSBC and Mizuho Financial Group. One of the largest exchange banks, the Korea Exchange Bank, is also headquarted in Seoul.
The largest market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market, is located in Seoul. Myeongdong is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul which contains some of the city's top stores and fashion boutiques. Nearby is the Namdaemun Market named after the Namdaemun Gate. Insadong is the cultural art market of Seoul, where traditional and modern Korean artworks, such as paintings, sculptures and calligraphy are sold. Itaewon is another notable shopping district in the city lined with boutiques and stores, mainly catering to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city. Shinchon is particularly popular with young people perhaps due to its proximity to some of Seoul's universities. The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul and has popular modern shopping spots such as the fashionable and upscale Apgujeong-dong area and the COEX Mall.
There are a large number of universities in Seoul. Most of the country's most prestigious universities are located in Seoul.
Historical structures and museums
The Joseon Dynasty built "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul:
- Changdeokgung (창덕궁; 昌德宮)
- Changgyeonggung (창경궁; (昌慶宮)
- Deoksugung (덕수궁; 德壽宮)
- Gyeongbokgung (경복궁; 景福宮)
- Gyeonghuigung (경희궁; 慶熙宮)
- National Museum of Korea(국립중앙박물관; 國立中央博物館)
- National Folk Museum(국립민속박물관; 國立民俗博物館)
- War Memorial(전쟁기념관; 戰爭紀念館)
Outside the metropolitan area:
Temples and shrines
- Jongmyo(종묘; 宗廟)
- Dongmyo (동묘; 東廟)
- Munmyo (문묘; 文廟)
- Jogyesa (조계사; 曹溪寺)
- Hwagyesa (화계사; 華溪寺)
- Bongeunsa (봉은사; 奉恩寺)
Parks and outdoor attractions
List of parks in Seoul Seoul's metropolitan area accommodates six major parks, including Seoul Forest, which opened in mid-2005. The Seoul National Capital Area also contains a green belt aimed to prevent the city from sprawling out over the neighboring Gyeonggi Province. These areas are frequently sought after by people resting on the weekend and during vacations.
Seoul hosted the 1986 Asian Games, 1988 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. It also served as one of the host cities of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Seoul World Cup Stadium hosted the opening ceremony and first game of the tournament.
Seoul hosts more than three million registered vehicles and widespread traffic congestion is common.
There are two international airports that serve Seoul. Gimpo International Airport, formerly in Gimpo but annexed to Seoul in 1963, was the only international airport for Seoul since its original construction during the Korean War. Other domestic airports were built around the time of the war, including at Yeouido.
Upon opening in March 2001, Incheon International Airport on Yeongjong island in Incheon changed the role of Gimpo Airport significantly. Incheon is now responsible for almost all international flights and some domestic flights, while Gimpo serves only domestic flights with the exception of flights to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) in Tokyo and Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai. This has led to a significant drop in flights from Gimpo Airport.
Meanwhile, Incheon International Airport has become, along with Hong Kong and Singapore, a major transportation centre for East Asia. The 2005 AETRA passenger survey, jointly administered by the International Air Transport Association(IATA) and Airports Council International, voted it the best airport in the world. It was named by Skytrax as the world's 5th best airport for 2006.
Incheon and Gimpo are linked to Seoul by highways, and Gimpo is also linked by subway (line #5). The Incheon International Airport Railroad, a rail line connecting Incheon Airport to Gimpo Airport opened in March 2007, but the line to Seoul Station in central Seoul will take at least a year more to open. Shuttle buses transfer passengers between Incheon and Gimpo airports.
Main: Seoul Buses Seoul's bus system is operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, with four primary bus configurations available servicing most of the city.
Seoul has many big intercity/express bus terminals. These buses are connecting Seoul and cities all around Korea. Major bus terminals are
- Seoul Express Bus Terminal in Seocho-gu
- Central City in Seocho-gu
- Seoul Nambu Terminal, also in Seocho-gu
- Dongseoul Bus Terminal in Gwangjin-gu
- Sangbong Terminal in Jungnang-gu
To reduce air pollution in the city, the government is planning to change over seven thousand of Seoul's diesel engine buses with natural gas by 2010.
Main:Seoul Metropolitan Subway Seoul has a comprehensive subway network that interlinks every district of the city with one another and the surrounding area. With more than 8 million passengers a day, Seoul has one of the busiest subway systems in the world. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway has 10 lines which serves Seoul, Incheon, Gyeonggi province and northern Chungnam province. In addition, in order to cope with all of these transportation modes, Seoul's metropolitan government employs several mathematicians to coordinate the subway, bus, and traffic schedules into one timetable. The various lines are run by Korail, Seoul Metro and Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation.
Seoul is connected to every major city in Korea by railroad. Seoul is also linked to most major Korean cities by the KTX high-speed train, which has a normal operation speed of more than 300 km/h. Major railroad stations include:
- Seoul Station, Jung-gu - Gyeongbu line (KTX/Saemaul/Mugunghwa-ho), Gyeongui line (Saemaul/Commuter)
- Yongsan Station, Yongsan-gu - Honam line (KTX/Saemaul/Mugunghwa), Jeolla/Janghang lines (Saemaul/Mugunghwa)
- Yeongdeungpo Station, Yeongdeungpo-gu - Gyeongbu/Honam/Janghang lines (Saemaul/Mugunghwa)
- Cheongnyangni Station, Dongdaemun-gu - Gyeongchun/Jungang/Yeongdong/Taebaek lines (Mugunghwa)
- Geography of South Korea
- Mayor of Seoul
- List of Korea-related topics
- List of cities in South Korea
- Seoul gallery at Wikimedia Commons
Tourism and living information
- Seoul Highlights - The Official Korea Tourism Guide Site
Maps and images
- Seoul Map Browser (from Seoul Metropolitan Government web site)
- Seoul Photo Album
- Seoul subway map (pdf in zip format)
- Photos of Seoul, South Korea
Some material adapted from the Wikipedia articles on South Korea from http://www.wikipedia.org/ used under the GNU Free Documentation License along with photos from Wikimedia commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
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