Exploring Korea

Seoul, the capital of Korea, combines a reverence for the past with a distinctive presence in the moment and an eye on the future. This cosmopolitan city, boasting world class design and cutting edge IT, offers tours of palaces from the Joseon Dynasty alongside markets that specialize in high fashion and mass consumption, guest houses and five star hotels. Where else can you have lunch in a trendy international restaurant, go for a hike on one of the many mountains in and around Seoul, then stop for a traditional Korean snack?

Summary of Seoul

  • Official Name Seoul Teukbyeol-si
  • Location Central west on the Korean Peninsula
  • Geography The Han River flows through Seoul from east to west and mountains surround the city. Bukhan-san (Northern mountain) and Dobong mountain are to the north of Seoul, Geomdan mountain to the east, and Gwanak mountain and Cheongye mountain to the south.
  • Population 10,437,737 * foreign residents 245,680 (2013 Statistic)
  • Surface Area 605.33 sq.km
  • Governing Area 25 autonomous districts ‘Jachigu’, 424 administrative ‘dong’
  • Language Korean (Japanese, English and Chinese available in main tourist areas)
  • Religion Christianity 25%, Buddhism 25% and other various religions
  • Climate Seoul has four very distinct seasons, with spring and fall being quite mild, summer hot and humid and winter being cold and dry. Seoul’s pleasant autumn season lasts from September to November. The ‘Hi! Seoul Festival’, one of Seoul’s most notable events, take place in autumn. Changgyeonggung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace are open until later hours during this period. It’s worth visiting the city at night to see the hundreds of lanterns hanging above the streets during the Lantern Festival. Average temperature in November normally ranges around 7 - 10 degree Celsius.

History of Seoul

In traditional Korean, the word ‘Seoul’ means ‘capital’. The Baekjae Dynasty first established Seoul as the capital city of the Korean people in the year 18 BC. Seoul remained the capital for the following 476 years, during which the city - and Korean culture - thrived. Much of Korean culture evident today evolved during that period. Centuries later, even after the capital was moved to present-day Gongju during the Baekjae Dynasty, Seoul retained its prominence. Underscoring Seoul’s importance, competing dynasties fought for control over the area of Seoul bordering the Han River. With the founding of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394, Seoul’s future was assured. In 1394, Seoul once again became the capital and flourished as a cultural and economic center for centuries. Although Seoul was called “Hanyang” during the Joseon Dynasty and “Gyeongseongbu” during the years of Japanese occupation, the city officially became “Seoul” again after Korea regained its independence on 15 August, 1945. In 1946, Seoul became a “do”, a reference to a specific type of region and was named the capital by the new Korean government.

Seoul: The Heart of Korean Culture

The city is home to extensive collections in over 700 museums, including the National Museum and the National Folk Museum and numerous performance centers, such as the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and the National Theater. In addition, the city has more than 400 galleries exhibiting everything from the most contemporary modern art to traditional Korean furniture. Alternatively, enjoy traditional festive dances, eat like the Joseon emperors or visit a Bukcheon traditional house (a Hanok) in the town of the Joseon dynasty. For a taste of the contemporary, experience a wide range of modern and fusion culture, then go to world-class performances like ‘NANTA’, ‘JUMP’ and ‘B-boy’. Not tired yet? You can also see performances at Daehakro, Seoul Grand Park and Citizen’s park, all outdoor cultural spaces in Seoul.

Seoul: A Business Hub in Northeast Asia

Seoul is also making its mark in the business arena. It has been listed among the top ten cities in the world for doing business and is working hard to cement its position as a business center. Geographically, Seoul is strategically located in the center of the Northeast Asian economy and offers a city with a pool of one of the world’s best-educated workforces. Among its growth industries: conventions, tourism, digital contents, fashion, design, R&D, finance and retail distribution. Seoul City is currently planning to designate an international financial zone in which local and foreign financial companies will be given extensive support both through infrastructure development and various tax exemptions and reductions. Also the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the newest and most iconic landmark of the Korean design industry. Located at the center of the Dongdaemun area, the DDP will serve as a key venue for design-related shows and conferences, exhibitions, and other events and gatherings.

Seoul Going Green

Seoul boasts impressive natural resources - stunning mountains that surround and define the city, and the beautiful Han River, running right through its center. In addition, Seoul City is focused on bringing out its natural resources with an emphasis on a greener downtown. The efforts include an extensive clean-up and renovation of the area around the Han River as well as of Namsan Mountain, in the heart of Seoul, to restore their natural beauty and turn them into more eco-friendly areas. Seoul City will also gradually replace all carbon fuel-powered public buses with natural gas-powered ones. Having made remarkable progress in reducing air pollution, Seoul City is already known as one of the cleanest cities in Asia.

* For more information on Seoul, visit the official website of Seoul Metropolitan Government (http://english.seoul.go.kr/)