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Seoul Special City travel guide — Seoul Special City tourism and travel information

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about Seoul Special City

Seoul is the over 600 year old enduring capital of South Korea and until 1945, the capital of all of Korea. It is a designated special city. Since the establishment of the Republic of Korea—better known as South Korea—in 1948, it became the capital of the country, except for a short time during Korean War.

Seoul is located in the northwest of the country below the DMZ, on the Han River. The city is the political, cultural, social and economical centre of South Korea and East Asia. It is also an international centre for business, finance, multinational corporations, and global organizations. This, along with its position as the capital of one of the world's largest economies, has boosted it to the status of a global city, playing a special role as the greatest metropolis to ever rise from the ashes of a former colony and a war-torn nation. Even today, it is considered the beacon of the East Asian economy, the symbol of the Korean economic miracle.

With about 16 million registered citizens living within its 237 square miles, the city of Seoul is one of the most populated cities in the world that human civilization has yet known. Its density has allowed it to become one of the most digitally-wired cities in today's globally connected economy. It also has more than 1 million registered vehicles which cause isolated traffic-jams beyond midnight. The larger Seoul metorpolitan area and commuter belt, which includes the major harbor city Incheon and the largely resedential city of Seongnam, is one of the world's most heavily populated. In recent years, the metropolitan government has carried out an extensive cleanup of the city's heavy air and water pollution, transforming the previously murky atmosphere into one of outstanding cleanness.

Seoul Special City geography

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 (청계천), a now-covered stream that runs from west to east through the valley before emptying into the Han River. To the north of downtown is Bukhan Mountain, and to the south is the smaller Namsan ("South Mountain"). 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 and surrounding neighbourhoods. 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 that is a famous indoor mall area where many young Koreans enjoy spending time with friends. Yeouido is a large island in the middle of the Han River, downstream from Gangnam-gu, and is home to the National Assembly, the major broadcasting studios, and a number of large office buildings, as well as the Korea Finance Building and the world's largest Presbytarian church. 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 and Gwanak Mountain. In addition to the many districts, the skyline of Seoul is also quite amazing. Many notable buildings include the Korea Finance Building, Namsan Tower, tthe World Trade Centre, the 6-skyscraper residence Tower Palace, the Star Tower, IPark Apartment, and the various high-rise office buildings dominate Seoul's skyline. The number of high-rise buildings in Seoul is the most abundant in Asia after cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Urban and civil planning was a key concept when Seoul was first designed to serve as a capital in the 14th century. The Royal Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty still remain in Seoul, with the main palace (Gyeongbukgung) currently being restored to its original form. Today, there exist 9 major efficient subway lines stretching for more than 100 kilometres which connects the greater Seoul Metropolitan area, with a 10th line being planned.

There are many significant streets to Seoul, but the most historically significant is Jongno—meaning the "Bell Street"—where 'jong' means a bell, and 'ro' (the initial consonant becoming 'n' through a regular sound change) means a street. This bell signalled different time of the day and therefore controlled the four gates to the city. It is still intact in its original form, and hit ceremonially at 0:00 every new years day. Seoul's most important streetcar line ran along Jongno until it was replaced by Line 1 of the Seoul subway system in the early 1970s. Other notable streets in downtown Seoul include Euljiro (을지로), Sejongno (세종로), Chungmuro (충무로), Yulgongno (율곡로), and Toegyero (퇴계로).

Seoul Special City history

The history of Seoul can be traced back as far as 18 BC. In that year the newly established kingdom of Baekje built its capital Wiryeseong in the Seoul area. There are several city wall remains in the area dating from this time, and Pungnap Toseong, an earthen wall whose remains lie just outside Seoul, is widely believed to be the main Wiryeseong site. During the time when the three kingdoms fought for hegemony in Korea, Seoul was often the site where disputes were carried out.

It was thought that only the kingdom who controls the area around Seoul would be able to control the whole of the peninsula, because it was centre of transportation. This was the reason why in the 11th century the ruler of the Goryeo Dynasty built a palace in Seoul, which was referred to as the Southern Capital.

This city was renamed from Hanyang (漢陽) to Hanseong (漢城) when it became the capital of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394 (it is still known by this name in the Chinese language). It was renamed Gyeongseong (京城—Keijō in Japanese) during the Japanese Colonial Period, and finally given the name Seoul after the 1945 liberation. The word Seoul has been used since the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D.935). Seoul was originated from the archaic words of 'seobeol' or 'seorabeol'. Both were referred to Gyeongju, then capital of Silla, and meant the capital or capital city. Then it was transliterated into several types reflecting slight changes over time and has finally firmed up to Seoul. The Hanja gyeong (京) also means "capital" and is used to represent Seoul in the names of railway lines and freeways (for example, the Gyeongbu (Seoul-Busan) railway line and Gyeongin (Seoul-Incheon) freeway.

After independence, some nationalists have insisted that gyeong should be replaced with seo, the first syllable of Seoul. In this case, however, one cannot tell Seobu (서釜, Seoul-Busan) from another Seobu (西部, "western") in Hangul, so the proposal was withdrawn.

Originally entirely surrounded by a massive circular wall (a 20 feet high circular stone fortress) to provide security its citizens from wild animals such as the Korean Tiger (Siberian Tiger, once roaming the wilds of Korea in large numbers; although it vanished from the peninsula long ago, its memory has been preserved in both myth and legend), thieves and attacks. The city has grown to surpass 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, each entrance was opened and closed each day, by ringing large bells, to allow traffic.

Seoul was the host city of the 1988 Summer Olympics as well as one of the venues of the Football World Cup 2002.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Seoul".

This city is also known as: Seoul Special City (서울).

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