Thinking about visiting a huge and modern city in Asia? Seoul, the capital of South Korea, should indeed be on your list. While learning Korean on the side, now is also the best time to learn more about Seoul. If you are ready for that, let’s get started!
Picture yourself walking in downtown Seoul enjoying the view and the K-drama-like vibe. This kind of experience is what locals and foreigners are digging for when they go to Seoul. It is a city where nature and modern buildings can co-exist. Being one of the major South Korean cities and the largest city in South Korea, Seoul has all the reasons it is worthy of being the country’s capital.
History Of Seoul
Learning the history of a place will give you a broader understanding and deeper appreciation of everything about it. This includes culture, people, places, and even food. Being the capital city of South Korea, Seoul has a lot of great stories to tell. It has a long history which we will talk about in this part of the blog.
1394: Joseon Dynasty
Did you know that even if there is archeological evidence that people have been living in the area (which we now know as Seoul) since prehistoric times, it is only in the 1st century when the settlement history was recorded? This settlement was at the meeting point of the Ancient Three Kingdoms – Goguryeo (고구려, 高句麗), Baekje (백제, 百濟), and Silla (신라, 新羅).
Seoul’s history stretches back nearly 2,000 years. “Seoul” comes from the ancient Korean word Seorabeol, which means “capital city.” Wiryeseong (위례성), the capital of Baekje, was located on the banks of the Hangang River in the southeastern section of what is now Seoul. After being named the capital of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394, the city began to develop in earnest. During this time, it went by the name Hanseong (한성), which means “Fortress city on the Han River.”
It is not new to us that the Korean peninsula was divided into North Korea and South Korea and has endured many wars throughout history. Because the Korean peninsula had been attacked by China and Japan for centuries, the Joseon Dynasty was extremely careful about security. Korea closed its door to other countries and foreign influences to protect its people and their culture. In 1396, Koreans started the construction of the Fortress Wall of Seoul, which helped them preserve their country from foreign colonizers and invaders.
1897: Fall Of Joseon Dynasty
The Korean empire took control and maintained Seoul as its capital. This was also the time when Seoul opened itself to the outside world. It didn’t take a while for modernization to take place, and in less than ten years, Seoul has become one of the cities to have trolley cars, telephones, hospitals, parks, electricity, and water systems in East Asia.
1910-1945: Japanese Colonialism
Japan formally annexed Seoul, and the Japanese government completely controlled the city. Gradual industrialization ensued, resulting in illegal habitation sites throughout the city. The Japanese colonial rulers utilized Seoul as their capital and imported more technology. They paved roads, demolished old walls and gates, and constructed skyscrapers in the Western-style. Seoul began to evolve into a new residential zone as these outlying areas were swiftly recognized as part of the city.
Koreans during this time were unhappy because they were treated very poorly in their own country. Japan left Korea for good after the end of World War II. This made Koreans happy as the poor treatment finally came to an end.
1950: Korean War
When Korea was under Japanese colonization, Korea was divided into northern and southern halves. Seoul became the capital of South Korea, and Pyongyang became North Korea’s capital. North Korea started to embrace communist ideologies while South Korea did not.
The division between North and South Korea will, later on, cause a huge disaster as North Korea wanted to hold power over the entire peninsula. In 1950, the Korean war sparked as North Korea invaded South Korea. The war went on for three years, and Seoul changed hands between North and South Korea four times.
The whole city was left ruined and devastated. An estimated 190,000 buildings, 1000+ factories, and 50,000 houses were destroyed in the war. Seoul also had many refugees coming from North Korea, so the population reached 2.5 million.
The 1960s-1970s: After The Korean War
After the war, Seoul remained the country’s capital city. The government also focused on the city of Seoul for significant reconstruction and modernization in the 1960s. This was also the year when the three phases of contemporary development.
As a result of the large population intake and lack of social infrastructure, Seoul had major urban difficulties such as traffic congestion, pollution, the establishment of illegal settlement sites, and housing shortages. The Seoul Metropolitan Government worked on providing basic infrastructure by widening highways, erecting apartment complexes in unlawful settlement zones, and building the Cheonggye Overpass and Yeouido Island to address these difficulties.
The 1980s-1990s: Urban And Civil Planning
In preparation for hosting the Asian Games in 1986 and the Olympic Games in 1988, the Seoul Metropolitan Government launched several aggressive urban improvement and city beautification measures. On the one hand, the Hangang River was given a general development plan, and the Gangbyeonbuk-ro and Olympic-daero roads were created alongside it.
In response to the dramatic increase in housing demand among the middle class, the Seoul Metropolitan Government opened subway lines 2-8 and large-scale apartment complexes in Gangnam, Mok-dong, Godeok-dong, Gaepo-dong, and Sanggye-dong. Due to this enormous infrastructure development project, Seoul was able to establish a significant, high-standard urban infrastructure network consisting of public transit, roadways, waterworks, and sewage systems.
On the other hand, the relentless development has major side effects, including environmental destruction, historical resource damage, and community breakdown.
The 2000s-Present: Smart & Sustainable City
Seoul’s urban management policy shifted toward establishing a sustainable city with modern IT as information technology evolved and inhabitants’ demand for enhanced quality of life increased.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s administration was digitized in parallel with major parks development initiatives, such as the Cheonggyecheon Stream restoration and Seoul Forest development project.
Seoul recently saw a paradigm shift in its approaches to urban regeneration as economic growth halted and the social environment altered due to the aging of the population and other issues.
Today, Seoul remained one of Asia’s most prosperous and advanced cities. Seoul is also known to be a global leader in technology. The Seoul Capital Area concentrated on Gangnam, and Digital Media City is a global technology hub with 15 Fortune Global 500 enterprises like LG, Samsung, and Hyundai. But, aside from being a technological hub, Seoul is also home to the 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 115 Museums, Confucian shrines, ancient Buddhist temples, and a Catholic cathedral.
Facts About Seoul
Seoul, officially known as Seoul Special Metropolitan City, is the capital of South Korea. It has a long history which you have briefly learned above. Arcadis named it Asia’s most livable city in 2015, with the second greatest quality of life internationally. Let me warm you up with some interesting facts about Seoul.
- Seoul’s official name is Seoul Special City.
- Seoul is a megacity with over 10 million population.
- In Seoul, the KTX high-speed train operates.
- Seoul is home to the world’s busiest air route.
- There isn’t much green area in Seoul.
- There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Seoul.
- The world’s longest bridge fountain is located in Seoul.
- When it comes to sports, Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympic
After learning some major facts about Seoul, let us now go deeper and learn more about the capital of South Korea – Seoul.
Seoul is known to have many different names throughout its history. Let’s get to know some below:
- Wiryeseong and Hanseong (Baekje era)
- Bukhansangun (Goguryo era)
- Hanyang (North and South States period)
- Namgyeong (Goryeo era)
- Hanyangbu (Goryeo in the Mongolian occupation period)
- Hanseong (Joseon era)
- Seoul Chosun period
- Keij in Japanese and Gyeongseong in Korean (Japanese period)
- After World War II and the liberation of Korea, the city adopted its current name, Seoul, which had been in use since at least 1882, and had been used in conjunction with other names at times. The Seoul Metropolitan Government requested that the city’s Chinese name be changed to “Shu’r” in January 2005. This is a close Mandarin Chinese transcription of Seoul, where (shu) can also signify “first” or “capital.” This new name has progressively gained acceptance among Chinese groups.
First, let’s talk about Seoul’s geography. Seoul is found in northwest South Korea. The Han River divides Seoul into northern and southern parts, giving it a total size of 605.52km2. Eight mountains surround the city and the relative level areas of the Han River plain.
When you look at the city of Seoul from afar, you’ll witness a majestic view of skyscrapers, buildings, traditional structures, grand palaces, government offices, corporate headquarters, hotels, and traditional markets. This is where the heart of the old Joseon Dynasty can also be found. The valley of Cheonggyecheon, which runs from west to east through the valley before draining into the Han River, is home to the same area. This stream had been buried by concrete for many years until it was recently restored as part of an urban revival project.
You can also find major modern landmarks in Seoul like the Korea Finance Building World Trade Centre, Seoul Star Tower, COEX Mall, and the six-skyscraper residence Tower Palace. Major broadcasting studios can also be found in Seoul, particularly in Bamson, a small island on the Han River in Youido, downstream from Gangnam-gu.
The Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, and Lotte World have been built at Songpa-gu, on the south side of the Han River, upstream from Gangnam-gu. South of the huge Gangnam district is Namhan Mountain and Gwanak Mountain.
When it comes to historical places, the Korean government is doing its best to preserve everything they have right now. The Joseon Dynasty’s Royal Palaces are still standing in Seoul, with the largest palace (Gyeongbokgung) being restored to its former glory. When Korean society was rigidly constituted as a classed society in the fourteenth century, urban and civil planning played a significant role in the earliest designs of Seoul as a capital.
Jongno, or “Bell Street,” is Seoul’s most historically significant street, and it is home to Bosingak, a pavilion with a big bell. The bell rang at different times to signify the start and end of the day.
Despite its skyscraper-filled skyline, South Korea boasts a beautiful and expansive natural landscape. The country is covered in the forest for 64% of its area, and it has 2,413 kilometers of coastline. Despite its natural surroundings, Seoul has the least amount of urban green space per capita in South Korea.
Now, let’s talk about the climate. Despite being surrounded on three sides by the sea, Seoul has a moderate continental climate. This is also true for the rest of South Korea. Monsoons occur from June through September, making summers hot and humid. August is the hottest month of the year, with an average temperature of 32°F.
Of course, many tourists want to go to South Korea during the winter or fall season, so avoid August because it is the hottest month, with average temperatures ranging from 22 to 30 degrees Celsius. The average January temperature is -7 °C to 1 °C, colder than other places at comparable latitudes. Seoul’s winters are generally drier than its summers, with an average of 28 days of snowfall. If you want to learn about the weather in Korea, you can check out this blog.
Seoul is one of the world’s most populous cities, with over 10 million people residing within its borders. It is, nonetheless, one of the most densely populated major cities, like Tokyo and Hong Kong, with an area of only 605 square kilometers, smaller than cities such as London or New York City.
In the current year, 2022, Seoul’s population reached 9,976,000, which is a 0.08% increase from 2021. Below is the population of Seoul for the last three years.
- 2021 was 9,968,000 (increased by 0.05% from 2020)
- 2020 was 9,963,000, (increased by 0.01% from 2019)
- 2019 was 9,962,000, (decline by 0.01% decline from 2018)
As you can see, Seoul doesn’t dramatically increase its population as it has not a lot of room for an increase in population.
As all of us may know, South Korea’s economy was boosted by the Korean wave. We also know they have a “pali-pali” culture, which refers to doing things quickly. But, how does the capital city of South Korea contribute to the country’s economy?
As one of the Four Asian Tigers, Seoul has been instrumental in South Korea’s economic development. Let us start with the service sector. It is not new to us that the world’s top corporations like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and Kia Motors are found in South Korea.
The service sector has thrived and contributed to the country’s overall prosperity and economic health. The service sector accounts for 63.2 percent of South Korea’s GDP. The top export items include electronics, autos, and machinery. This economic growth has also contributed to the low unemployment rate of roughly 3.4 percent.
Kangnam is transforming into Seoul’s second central business district, attracting businesses in tourism, design and fashion, information technology, and other new technology fields.
As president, Yoon has pledged to relocate large parts of the National Assembly, facilitate the construction of special economic zones in neighboring areas to attract international investment, and establish cutting-edge technology and research institutes to attract top experts.
Seoul and South Korea have a robust economy that contributes to the country’s status as a global player. As the center of South Korea’s service sector, Seoul acts as the country’s economic growth and health center, ensuring the country’s continued progress.
Seoul is the largest city in South Korea. It is divided into 25 gu (“districts”), further subdivided into 522 dong, 13,787 tong, and 102,796 ban in total. Each district has special things to offer to people. Here is a quick list of Seoul’s administrative divisions:
- Dobong-gu (도봉구)
- Dongdaemun-gu (동대문구)
- Dongjak-gu (동작구)
- Eunpyeong-gu (은평구)
- Gangbuk-gu (강북구)
- Gangdong-gu (강동구)
- Gangnam-gu (강남구)
- Gangseo-gu (강서구)
- Geumcheon-gu (금천구)
- Guro-gu (구로구)
- Gwanak-gu (관악구)
- Gwangjin-gu (광진구)
- Jongno-gu (종로구)
- Jung-gu (중구)
- Jungnang-gu (중랑구)
- Mapo-gu (마포구)
- Nowon-gu (노원구)
- Seocho-gu (서초구)
- Seodaemun-gu (서대문구)
- Seongbuk-gu (성북구)
- Seongdong-gu (성동구)
- Songpa-gu (송파구)
- Yangcheon-gu (양천구)
- Yeongdeungpo-gu (영등포구)
- Yongsan-gu (용산구)
The colonization of Korea by different foreign countries plays one of the biggest roles in South Korea’s demographics. Seoul’s 10 million population is almost entirely Korean, with minorities of Chinese and Japanese. As a result of colonization and globalization, Seoul now has an estimated 200,000 international residents, including people from Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Europeans, Africa, Oceania, North America, and South America.
As the capital of South Korea, Seoul has gone through a lot through the times. It has a rich culture that everyone will enjoy when visiting the city. This culture is a product of their history and continuous modernization and globalization. This is seen in their K-dramas and movies. There are lots of things that Seoul is known for but let me just give you some:
- Korean Wave – K-pop stars like BTS and BLACKPINK and famous K-dramas/ series like Crash Landing On You and Squid Game are products of the Korean wave that started in South Korea’s capital, Seoul. Many people, locals, and foreigners, go to Seoul to have a first-hand experience of what it is like to be in the world of these idols and actors.
- Workaholics – When you watch K-dramas that concern work like Business Proposal, Start-up, and Itaewon Class, you’ll notice how hardworking Koreans are. When you; ‘re in Seoul, you’ll see them walking in the streets or the public transportations. On average, Seoul workers spend around 55 hours per week.
- Online Gaming Addiction – Do you remember the scene in Crash Landing On You when Captain Ri got addicted to an online game and battled with his co-soldier from North Korea? Recall how easy for Eun-Dong to find a computer shop and play an online game in Seoul? Also, in the recent K-drama called Twenty-Five-Twenty One, there’s a scene there where the coach caught one of her athletes in a computer shop while playing online games. She scolded it and made her stop playing. But instead of walking out of the computer shop, she also played it. Yes, those are short and simple scenes, but they tell a lot about South Koreans’ addiction to online gaming. In Seoul, playing online games such as StarCraft and World of Warcraft is big business, with large-money tournaments and a few deaths from tiredness and criminal incidents. Hello, the fastest internet speed in the world!
- Outsourced Animation – Did you know that cartoons from the United States, such as The Simpsons and South Park, were produced in Seoul? It is not surprising, considering they include a lot of animations on K-dramas that add up to the aesthetic of the scene.
- Cheap, High-tech Electronics – Notice how K-drama characters feature new high-tech electronics like rice cookers, vacuum cleaners, TV, etc. Seoul rules the world when it comes to cutting-edge technology at low prices.
- Authentic Korean Food and Street Food – Where else can you enjoy authentic Korean food than in the capital of South Korea? By just walking down the streets of Seoul, you can see a lot of Korean restaurants, food trucks, and street food stalls. The fun part is you can satisfy your cravings and make yourself full without spending too much money. The food there is incredibly affordable.
Seoul’s main transportation systems are airports, buses, subways, and trains. South Korea’s transportation system is fast-improving and modernized. Having a fast transportation system is important, especially in their “pali-pali” culture, where no time should be wasted. Owning a car there is expensive. Most people rely on public transportation, which is not a problem because they have a well-developed public transportation system.
Seoul is served by two airports: Incheon International Airport and Gimpo International Airport. Seoul is connected to Incheon International Airport, which has been named the world’s finest airport for the past nine years. Another airport that serves Seoul is the Gimpo International Airport which served as Seoul’s only airport since its establishment during the Korean War.
Except for flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Incheon now handles practically all international and some domestic flights, whereas Gimpo handles solely domestic flights.
Seoul’s bus system is run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, with four main bus networks serving most of the city. Seoul has several intercity/express bus terminals that connect it to every major city throughout Korea. When combined with the metro, bus transportation provides a way to avoid the traffic bottlenecks that afflict Seoul. Below are some of the major bus terminals in Seoul.
- Seoul Express Bus Terminal in Seocho-gu
- Seoul Nambu Terminal, also in Seocho-gu
- Central City in Seocho-gu
- Sangbong Terminal in Jungnang-gu
- Dongseoul Bus Terminal in Gwangjin-gu
Seoul also has one of the busiest subway systems globally, with over 8 million people every day. Seoul, being the capital of South Korea, has eight subway lines that connect the city’s many districts and the surrounding area. There are currently eight major subway lines stretching more than 250 kilometers, with a ninth and tenth line in the works.
In addition, Seoul’s metropolitan government employs multiple mathematicians to coordinate the subway, bus, and traffic timetables into one timetable to deal with these means of transportation.
Another thing that tourists like about Seoul is that it is easy to reach your destination by just riding trains. Seoul is connected to all of Korea’s major cities by railroad. The KTX bullet train, currently Asia’s fastest high-speed rail, connects Seoul to several other major South Korean cities, making commuting between cities highly convenient. Below are the major railroad stations in Seoul:
- Seoul Station, Jung-gu – Gyeongbu line (KTX/Saemaul/Mugunghwa-ho), Gyeongui line (Saemaul/Commuter)
- Cheongnyangni Station, Dongdaemun-gu – Gyeongchun/Jungang/Yeongdong/Taebaek lines (Mugunghwa)
- Yeongdeungpo Station, Yeongdeungpo-gu – Gyeongbu/Honam/Janghang lines (Saemaul/Mugunghwa)
- Yongsan Station, Yongsan-gu – Honam line (KTX/Saemaul/Mugunghwa), Jeolla/Janghang lines (Saemaul/Mugunghwa)
Seoul has a lot of sister cities. Just to give you an idea, a sister city is a city that is linked to another. These cities usually link together for cultural exchange purposes or business purposes. Below is a list of Seoul’s sister cities:
- Ankara, Turkey
- Astana, Kazakhstan
- Athens, Greece
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Beijing, People’s Republic of China
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Cairo, Egypt
- Guam (United States)
- Hanoi, Vietnam
- Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, United States
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Moscow, Russia
- Paris, France
- Rome, Italy
- San Francisco, California, United States
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Sydney, Australia
- Taipei, Republic of China
- Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- Tokyo, Japan
- Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
- Warsaw, Poland
- Washington, D.C, United States
Tourist Spots In Seoul
Seoul has lots of beautiful and modern buildings as well as grand palaces. But, you can also find many UNESCO World Heritage sites in the city. As they say, Seoul is a special city where modernization, nature, and history meet. If you’re a tourist, there are many beautiful places to be in Seoul. Here are some of the must-visit tourist spots in Seoul.
- N Seoul Tower – This is a familiar place, especially for K-drama fans. It’s the Eiffel Tower of South Korea and one of its landmarks. It will give you a 360-degree view of Seoul, and you can run out of things to do in the tower. Inside the tower, divided into three areas, you will find dining options, activities, showrooms, and shops. The N Seoul Tower is known for lots of top features. You can visit the Ssentoy Museum & Show Room, where you can see lots of toys and figurines, the Hello Kitty Island, where you can enjoy lots of things related to the Japanese character, and the Love Padlocks Area, which is like the one in Paris, the Panda Garden for a nice photoshoot even without real pandas, and the Namsan Octagonal Pavilion, where you can watch live performances like the Korean Martial Arts.
- Bongeunsa Temple – This temple is a relaxing, educational, and serene refuge. Before the 1960s, the temple grounds were surrounded solely by farmland and orchards. Since then, the region has grown to become one of Seoul’s wealthiest and busiest, making Bongeunsa Temple a unique blend of ancient and modern Seoul.
- Bukchon Hanok Traditional Village – Walking in the streets of this village is like walking in ancient times in South Korea. The historic village is made up of various lanes and hanok that have been kept to depict a 600-year-old urban environment.
- Cheonggyecheon, Seoul’s Urban Stream – Take a walk in this stream and treat your eyes to many attractions along the way. Cheonggyecheon Stream passes through downtown Seoul for 11 kilometers. The stream begins at Cheonggye Plaza, a major cultural arts center, and flows via 22 bridges before reaching the Hangang River, passing through numerous attractions along the route.
- Lotte World Tower – Relive some famous K-drama scenes in this 123-story skyscraper. Lotte World is a large amusement park in Seoul that includes the world’s largest indoor theme park, an outdoor amusement park called “Magic Island,” an artificial island inside a lake connected by monorail, shopping malls, a luxury hotel, a Korean folk museum, sports facilities, and movie theaters.
- Seoul Museum of Art – Are you into arts? Why not visit the Seoul Museum of Art. With a series of world-famous shows, the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) has acquired a reputation as one of Korea’s top art institutions.
- DMZ – Visit the line that divides North and South Korea. From there, you might feel the Crash Landing On You vibe during one of its heartbreaking episodes.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace – This is the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.
- Gwanghwamun Gate – Gwanghwamun Gate, one of Seoul’s most well-known sites, is included in most city sightseeing trips. It is Gyeongbokgung Palace’s majestic main gate. The gate has been restored numerous times throughout the years, but it continues to be a symbol of Seoul.
- National Museum of Korea – The Korean National Museum is a fantastic site to visit and learn about Korean history and culture. It is a terrific way to get away from the weather, and it is entirely free!
- Blue House – Blue House, also known as Cheong Wa Dae, is the executive office and official house of the President of the Republic of Korea, located in Jongno-gu, Seoul.
- Jingwansa Temple, Bukhansan National Park – Jingwansa Temple is one of Seoul’s four most important and oldest temples. It is a tranquil location next to the well-known Bukhansan National Park.
- Gwangjang Market – Gwangjang Market is one of Seoul’s most authentic Korean street food destinations. Gwangjang Market is not to be missed if you enjoy eating.
- Myeongdong Shopping Street – You can’t leave South Korea without shopping in Myeongdong. Shopping in Myeongdong is the best in Seoul, and no hotel compares to a Myeongdong hotel. This downtown quarter can find wonderful boutique boutiques, tasty street cuisine, and exciting live music.
- Insadong – It is a significant location for displaying old yet valuable traditional goods. Enjoy the various teahouses and Korean restaurants and stores selling traditional items, including ceramics, tea, and handmade hanji paper.
Visiting Seoul? Make The Most Out Of It!
Your Seoul adventure wouldn’t be complete without talking to the locals. Whatever fun activity you do, whether it’s shopping, dining in a restaurant, or just visiting tourist spots, you need to bring some Korean words with you. So, if you want to learn Korean, Ling App is the perfect app for you.
In learning a language, you need to develop all the language skills – reading, writing, speaking, and grammar. Luckily, Ling App can develop all of these language skills. What’s exciting is through Ling App, you won’t need to learn traditionally. The app is well-developed by language experts and real native speakers. There are also mini-games and quizzes that will keep you motivated. With this, you can ensure that your learning will be fun and meaningful.
So, make the most out of your trip to the capital of South Korea. Start learning Korean with Ling App now!