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Seoul ( ), officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest city of South Koreamarker. With a population of over 10 million, it is one of the world's largest cities. The Seoul National Capital Area, which includes the major port city of Incheonmarker and most of Gyeonggi-domarker, 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 foremost economic, political, and cultural center. It is an important destination for immigrants to South Korea, with a rapidly growing international population of over 255,000.

Seoul is located on the Han Rivermarker in the center of the Korean Peninsula, and historically was settled in 18 B.C. when Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, established its capital in what is now south-east Seoul. The city then became the capital of Koreamarker during the Joseon Dynastymarker and the Korean Empiremarker. As the center of Korean history over the past millennia, the Seoul National Capital Area is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeokgungmarker, Hwaseong Fortressmarker, Jongmyo Shrinemarker and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynastymarker.

Seoul's influence in business, international trade, politics, technology, education and entertainment all contribute to its role as a prominent global city. It is considered to be an Alpha World City, ranking 9th in the 2008 Global Cities Index. Seoul is the iconic city of the Miracle on the Han River and hosted landmark international events such as the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup and will be the host city of the 2010 G-20 Summit. It is one of the world's top ten financial and commercial centers, home to some of the world's largest conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia. Seoul was Asia's most expensive city to live in 2007, and the third most expensive city worldwide. With a GDP per capita of $31,095 in 2007, Seoul has a living standard comparable to Francemarker and Italymarker. In 2008, Seoul was named the world's sixth most economically powerful city by, ahead of Parismarker and Los Angelesmarker.

Seoul is the 2010 World Design Capital and has one of the world's most technologically advanced infrastructures. It is ranked first on the Digital Opportunity Index, and its Digital Media Citymarker is the world's first complex for high-tech technologies, a test-bed for futuristic IT and multimedia applications, as well as home to the 133-floors, 640m supertall DMC Landmark Buildingmarker, slated to be the world's second tallest building by 2015. Seoul is the only city in the world featuring DMB, a digital mobile TV technology and WiBro, a wireless high-speed mobile internet service, as well as the world's fastest, most penetrated 100Mbps fibre-optic broadband network, which is being upgraded to 1Gbps by 2012. Seoul Stationmarker houses the 350 km/h KTX high-speed rail and the Seoul Subway is the third largest in the world, with over 2 billion passengers every year. Seoul is connected to Incheon International Airportmarker via AREX, which is rated as the world's best airport by ACI since 2005.


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, Goryeomarker era), Hanseong (한성; 漢城, Baekje and Joseonmarker era), Hanyang (한양; 漢陽, Joseonmarker era), Gyeongseong (경성; 京城, Japanese occupation era). Its current name originated from the Korean word meaning "capital city," which is believed to be derived from Seorabeol (서라벌; 徐羅伐), which originally referred to Gyeongjumarker, 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 Toseongmarker or Mongchon Toseong remains believed as the site. It has thereafter been the capital of the Joseon Dynastymarker. Seoul as a capital of South Koreamarker, has a history of more 610 years since 1394 the year it was designate as a capital of Joseon Dynastymarker. 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 Gyeongbokgungmarker, one of the most royal and powerful palaces and the ruler's dwelling 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 Rivermarker. 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 Seamarker). 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 (Köppen climate classification Dwa), despite the fact that the country is surrounded on three sides by water. Summers are generally hot and humid, with East Asian monsoon 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.

Administrative divisions

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.

Seoul Districts


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. The city’s population surpassed 10,421,000 as of the end of 2007 and the number of foreigners was 229,000, constituting 2.2 percent of the population.

The two major religions in Seoul are Buddhism and Christianity. Other religions include Shamanism and Confucianism, the latter seen more as a pervasive social philosophy rather than a religion.


As the headquarters for Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia and SK, 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 per capita of $31,095 in 2007, Seoul has a living standard comparable to Francemarker and Italymarker

Financial hub

As a major business and financial center, Seoul ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of transnational companies headquartered there. Many international banks have branches in Seoul, including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC. One of the largest exchange banks, the Korea Exchange Bank, is also headquartered in Seoul.


Since Seoul is the center of commerce in South Korea, there are many notable shopping areas attracting consumers.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. It has mid to high priced retail stores and international brand outlets. Nearby is the Namdaemun Marketmarker named after the Namdaemun Gatemarker, which is the oldest continually running and the largest retail market in Seoul. Sinchon is a shopping area that caters mainly to a young crowd and university students.

On the other hand, 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. 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. 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. As for wholesale markets, there are Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Marketmarker, Garak Market and many others. Yongsan Electronics Market is the largest electronics market in Asia. Gasan Digital Complex also serves an extensive variety electronic products.


The traditional heart of Seoul is the old Joseon Dynastymarker city, which is now the downtown area, where most palaces, government offices, corporate headquarters, hotels, and traditional markets are located. 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. The most historically significant street in Seoul is Jongno, meaning "Bell Street," on which one can find Bosingakmarker, 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. To the north of downtown is Bukhan Mountain, and to the south is the smaller Namsanmarker. Further south are the old suburbs of Yongsan-gu and Mapo-gu, and the Han Rivermarker. Across the Han River are the newer and wealthier areas of Gangnam-gu,Seocho-gu and surrounding neighborhoods.

Historical architecture

Seoul has a lot of historical and cultural landmarks. In Amsa-dong Preshistoric Settlement Sitemarker, Songpa-gu, Neolithic remains were excavated and accidentally discovered by a flood in 1925 in Amsa-dongmarker.Urban and civil planning was a key concept when Seoul was first designed to serve as a capital in the late 14th century. The Joseon Dynastymarker built "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul such as Changdeokgungmarker, Changgyeonggungmarker, Deoksugungmarker, Gyeongbokgungmarker and Gyeonghuigungmarker, all of which are located in the district of Jongno-gu and Jung-gu. Among them, Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 for "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design". The main palace, Gyeongbokgungmarker currently being restored to its original form. The palaces are referred to as exemplary architecture of the Joseon period. Beside the palaces, Unhyeongung is known for the royal residence of Regent Daewongun, the father of Emperor Gojong at the end of the Joseon Dynasty.

Seoul has been surrounded by walls that had built to regulate visitors from other regions and protect the city in case foreigners' invasions. Pungnap Toseongmarker is a flat earthen wall built at the edge of the Han River which is widely believed to be the site of Wiryeseong. Mongchon Toseong (몽촌토성; 蒙村土城) is also an earthen wall built during the Baekje period which is now located inside the Olympic Parkmarker. Castle Walls of Seoul (서울성곽; 서울城郭) are remaining walls of Seoul during Joseon Dynastymarker.

Although many walls and fortresses were demolished, some of gates of the palaces and fortresses have played a role of the city's heart such as Sungnyemunmarker and Heunginjimunmarker. The gates are more commonly known as Namdaemun (South Great Gate) and Dongdaemun (East Great Gate) in regards to the directions. Namdaemun was the oldest wooden gate until the 2008 fire incident and has been currently under reconstruction. Nearby the gates, traditional markets and largest shopping center, Namdaemun Marketmarker and Dongdaemun Market are situated with the names from the gates.

There are also many buildings founded in the end of the 19th century and early 20th century with western styles. The Independence Gatemarker was built in 1897 to inspire an independent spirit from Sinosphere. Seoul Stationmarker was opened in 1900 as "Gyeongseong Station.

Modern architecture

Major modern landmarks include the Korea Finance Buildingmarker, N Seoul Towermarker, the World Trade Centermarker, the 63 Buildingmarker and the six-skyscraper residence Tower Palacemarker. 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-meter business center in Sangam Digital Media City district and an 800-meter Lotte World 2 Tower in the Jamsil (pronounced "Jam-shil") district of Songpa-gu and Gangdong-gu.

The World Trade Center of Korea is located in Gangnam-gu which hosts various expositions and conferences. 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. 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.



Seoul is home to over 100 museums including three national and nine official municipal museums. National Museum of Korea is the most representative of museums in not only Seoul and South Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum exhibits 150,000 artifacts. In October 2005, the museum opened in a new building in Yongsan Family Park. The National Folk Museum is situated on the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace) in the district of Jongno-gu and uses replicas of historical objects to illustrate the folk history of the Korean people. Bukchon Hanok Village and Namsangol Hanok Villagemarker are old residential districts consisting of hanok- Korean traditional houses, parks, and museums that allows visitors to experience traditional Korean culture. The War Memorialmarker, one of nine municipal museums in Seoul, offers visitors an educational and emotional experience of various wars in which Korea was involved including Korean War themes. The Seodaemun Prison is a former prison built during Japanese occupation and is currently used as a history museum.

The Seoul Museum of Artmarker and Ilmin Museum of Art have preserved the appearance of the old building that distinguishes it visually from the neighboring tall, modern buildings in the urban area. The former is operated by Seoul City Council and was opened adjacent to Gyeonghuigung Palace, a Joseon dynasty royal palace. The Tteok & Kitchen Utensil Museum and Kimchi Field Museum provide information regarding Korean culinary history.


There are also religious buildings that take important roles in Korean society and politics. The Wongudanmarker altar had been a sacrificial place where Korean rulers held heavenly rituals since the Three Kingdoms period. Since the Joseon Dynasty adopted Confucianism as the national ideology in 14th century, the state built many Confucian shrines. The descendants of the Joseon royal family still continue to hold ceremonies to commemorate ancestors at Jongmyomarker. It is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and the ritual ceremonies continue a tradition established since the 14th century. Munmyo and Dongmyo were built during the same period. Although Buddhism was suppressed by the Joseon state, it has continued its existence. Jogyesamarker is the headquarters of the Jogyeo Order of Korean Buddhism. Hwagyesa and Bongeunsamarker are also major Buddhist temples in Seoul.

The Myeongdong Cathedral is a landmark of the Myeongdong district and is the first Catholic church established in Korea. It is a symbol of Christianity in Korea as well as political dissidents in the late 20th century.


Seoul Olympic Park
Namsan Parkmarker offers some hiking, recreation and views of the downtown Seoul skyline. The N Seoul Towermarker is located here. Seoul Olympic Parkmarker is located in Songpa-gu and was built to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. In Tapgol Parkmarker, a small public park with an area of 19,599 m², the Wongaksa Pagoda 10 tier pagoda is situated. Areas around streams serves as public places for relaxation and recreation. Tancheon stream and the nearby area serves as a large park with paths for both walkers and cyclists.Cheonggyecheon is a stream that runs nearly 6 km through downtown Seoul and a popular place to visit among Seoul residents and tourists.The Seoul metropolitan area accommodates six major parks, including the Seoul Forestmarker, which opened in mid-2005. The Seoul National Capital Area also contains a green belt aimed at preventing the city from sprawling out over the neighboring Gyeonggimarker Province. These areas are frequently sought after by people looking to escape from urban life on weekends and during vacations.

In addition, Seoul is also home to the world's largest indoor amusement park, Lotte World. Other recreation centers include the former Olympic and World Cupmarker stadiums and the City Hall public lawn.


International Competition

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 Stadiummarker hosted the opening ceremony and first game of the tournament.

Taekwondo is Korea's national sport and Seoul is the location of the Kukkiwon, also known as the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), the world headquarters of taekwondo.

Domestic Sports Clubs


  • Men's Football
Level League Club Home Stadium
Top Tier K-League FC Seoul Seoul World Cup Stadiummarker, North Seoul
2nd Tier National League Nowon Hummel FC Madeul Stadium, North Seoul
3rd Tier K3 League Seoul United Seoul Olympic Main Stadiummarker, South Seoul

  • Women's Football
Level League Club Home Stadium
Top Tier WK-League Seoul City Women's FC To Be Determined

Other Sports

The Seoul is home to three baseball teams in the KBO: LG Twins, Doosan Bears and Heroes. Seoul is also home to two basketball clubs in the KBL: Seoul Samsung Thunders and Seoul SK Knights.

Seoul also has a professional volleyball club Seoul Woori Capital Dream Six, which will debut in 2009-2010 season.


Seoul's transportation dates back to the era of the Korean Empiremarker, when the first streetcar lines were laid and a railroad linking Seoul and Incheon was completed. 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, Teheranno, Sejongno, Chungmuro, Yulgongno, and Toegyero. 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.

Seoul hosts more than three million registered vehicles and widespread traffic congestion is common.


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 connect Seoul and cities all around Korea. The Seoul Express Bus Terminal, Central City Terminal, and Seoul Nambu Terminal are located in the district of Seocho-gu. In addition, East Seoul Bus Terminal in Gwangjin-gu and Sangbong Terminal in Jungnang-gu operate in the east of the city. To reduce air pollution in the city, the municipal government is planning to change over seven thousand of Seoul's diesel engine buses with natural gas by 2010.


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 12 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:


There are two international airports that serve Seoul. Gimpo International Airportmarker, formerly in Gimpomarker 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 Airportmarker on Yeongjongmarker island in Incheonmarker 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 Airportmarker (Haneda) in Tokyomarker, Osaka Kansai International Airportmarker and Hongqiao Airportmarker in Shanghai. This has led to a significant drop in flights from Gimpo Airport.

Meanwhile, Incheon International Airport has become, along with Hong Kongmarker and Singaporemarker, a major transportation center for East Asia. The 2005 AETRA passenger survey, jointly administered by the 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 between Incheon and Gimpo airports, it is connected by the Incheon International Airport Railroad, which also linked to Incheon line #1, and Gimpo is linked by subway (line #5 and #9). The Incheon International Airport Railroad is planned to connect till Seoul Station in central Seoul but will take years more to open. Shuttle buses transfer passengers between Incheon and Gimpo airports.


See also: Education in South Korea, List of universities in Seoul

There are a large number of universities in Seoul, including most of the country's most prestigious universities.

Sister cities

Seoul has many sister cities. The year each relationship was formed is shown in parentheses below.

Large cities within South Korea

See also


  1. Thomas Brinkhoff,; South Korea, The registered population of the South Korean provinces and urban municipalities Registered population 2007-12-31. Retrieved on 2008-12-31.
  2. 나라지표:수도권 인구 집중 현황
  3. R.L. Forstall, R.P. Greene, and J.B. Pick, "Which are the largest? Why published populations for major world urban areas vary so greatly", City Futures Conference, (University of Illinois at Chicago, July 2004) Table 5 (p.34)
  7. See List of companies by revenue.
  8. See List of most expensive cities for expatriate employees.
  10. World Economic Outlook Database-April 2009, International Monetary Fund. Implied PPP conversion rate(2007). Accessed on April 22, 2009.
  11. World Economic Outlook Database-April 2009, International Monetary Fund. GDP(PPP) per capita(2007). Accessed on April 22, 2009.
  17. See Metro systems by annual passenger rides.
  18. yahoo
  20. BBC Weather - Country Guide
  21. [1]
  22. Welcome to KTC
  24. "Seoul More Enjoyable For a Day" accessed 2008-07-30
  25. The Many Lives of Tehran Road
  26. International Relations of Tirana

External links

Official sites

Tourism and living information


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