Skyline of Seoul
Country South Korea
Mayor Oh Se-hoon
Area 605.25 km²
Population 10,421,782
Density 17,219 /km²
Emblem of Seoul
Emblem of Seoul

Seoul (Korean pronunciation: [sʌ.ul] ( listen)), officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest city of South Korea. A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is one of the largest cities in the world.[4] The Seoul National Capital Area is the world's second largest metropolitan area with over 24.5 million inhabitants, which includes the Incheon metropolis and most of Gyeonggi province.[5]. 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.

Seoul has been a major settlement for over 2,000 years, with its foundation dating back to 18 B.C. when Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, established its capital in what is now south-east Seoul. It continued as the capital of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire. The Seoul National Capital Area is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeokgung, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.[6]

Today, Seoul is considered to be a leading global city, ranking among the top ten global cities in the Global Cities Index of 2010.[7] It is one of the world's top ten financial and commercial centers,[8] home to major multinational conglomerates[9] such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia. In 2008, Seoul was named the world's sixth most economically powerful city by Forbes.[10]

Seoul has a highly technologically advanced infrastructure.[11][12] Its Digital Media City is the world's first complex for IT and multimedia applications.[13] Seoul was the first city to feature DMB, a digital mobile TV technology and WiBro, a wireless high-speed mobile internet service. It has a fast, high-penetration 100 Mbit/s fibre-optic broadband network, which is being upgraded to 1 Gbit/s by 2012.[14] Seoul Station houses the 350 km/h KTX bullet train and the Seoul Subway is the third largest in the world, with over 200 million passengers every year.[15] Seoul is connected via AREX to Incheon International Airport, rated as the best airport in the world by Airports Council International.

Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. The city was named the World Design Capital for 2010 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

Name[edit | edit source]

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, Japanese colonial era).[16] Its current name originated from the Korean word meaning "capital city," which is believed to be derived from the word, Seorabeol (서라벌; 徐羅伐), which originally referred to Gyeongju, the capital of Silla.[17]

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.[18] The use of the old name 漢城/汉城 is still common, however.

Main article: History of Seoul Settlement began in Baekje, Wirye-seong, in 17 BC. The location of that site is thought to be within the boundaries of modern day Seoul, and the remains may be at Pungnap Toseong or Mongchon Toseong. It became the capital of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394. In the Japanese colonization period in the early 20th century, during which time the city was called Gyeongseong (경성; 京城; Japanese: Keijō), many historical and traditional parts of Seoul were changed.[citation needed] After independence from Japan in 1945, Koreans renamed the city Seoul. In 1949, Seoul was separated from Gyeonggi Province and was granted status as "Seoul Special City". In 1950, during the Korean War, Seoul was occupied by North Korean troops and the city was almost entirely destroyed. The city was retaken by UN Forces on March 14, 1951. Since then, the city boundary has steadily grown into surrounding administrative divisions of Gimpo, Goyang, and Shiheung counties. The current boundaries were established in 1995.

Seoul is in the northwest of South Korea. Seoul proper comprises 605.25 km²,[2] with a radius of approximately 15 km, 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, with civilian entry barred. The city is bordered by eight mountains, as well as the more level lands of the Han River plain and western areas.

Climate[edit | edit source]

Seoul lies in the border region between a humid subtropical and humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Cwa/Dwa), depending on the definition. Summers are generally hot and humid, with the East Asian monsoon taking place from June until July. August, the warmest month, has an average temperature of 22.1 to 29.5 °C (72 to 85 °F) with higher temperatures possible. Winters are often relatively cold with an average January temperature of -6.1 to 1.6 °C (21 to 34.9 °F) and are generally much drier than summers, with an average of 28 days of snow annually.

[1] Climate data for Seoul (1971−2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 1.6


























Average low °C (°F) −6.1


























Precipitation mm (inches) 21.6


























% Humidity 62.6 61.0 61.2 59.3 64.1 71.0 79.8 77.4 71.0 66.2 64.6 63.8 66.9
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 7.1 6.0 6.8 8.0 8.8 10.0 15.5 13.8 8.7 6.6 9.0 7.3 107.6
Sunshine hours 158.4 163.3 197.5 210.7 224.3 187.8 130.7 155.3 184.5 200.5 151.3 149.9 2,114.1
Source: Korean Meteorological Administration [19]

Main article: Gu of Seoul Seoul is divided into 25 gu (구; ) (district).[20] 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.[20] Dong are also sub-divided into 13,787 tong (통; ), which are further divided into 102,796 ban in total. [2][3] Seoul Districts

edit Demographics[edit | edit source]

Seoul proper is noted for its population density, which is almost twice as concentrated as New York and eight times greater than Rome, though slightly less than that of Paris. The density of its metropolitan area is the highest in the OECD.[21] Nearly all of Seoul's residents are Korean, with some small Chinese and Japanese minorities. As of 2009, the city’s population is 10,208,302.[3] The number of foreigners living in Seoul is 255,501 in 2010 according to Seoul officials.[22]

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.

Economy[edit | edit source]

See also: Economy of South Korea[4][5]Samsung Headquarters in Gangnam-gu.[6][7] LG International HeadquartersAs the headquarters for Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia and SK, Seoul has become a major business hub. Although it accounts for only 0.6 percent of South Korea's land area, Seoul generates 21 percent of the country's GDP.[23]

edit Finance[edit | edit source]

A relatively large number of transnational companies are headquartered in Seoul.[24] International banks with branches in Seoul include Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Barclays, Grupo Santander, UBS, Credit Suisse, UniCredit, Société Générale, Calyon, BBVA, Macquarie Group, ING Bank and Standard Chartered. The Korea Exchange Bank is also headquartered in the city.

edit Shopping[edit | edit source]

Main article: Shopping in Seoul[8][9]Myeongdong Shopping DistrictThe largest market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market, is located in Seoul. Myeongdong is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul with mid- to high-end stores, fashion boutiques and international brand outlets. The nearby Namdaemun Market, named after the Namdaemun Gate, is the oldest continually running market in Seoul. Sinchon is a shopping area that caters mainly to a younger and university student crowd.

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. Some shops for local designers have opened in Samcheong-dong, where numerous small art galleries are located. Itaewon caters mainly to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city. The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul and is noted for the fashionable and upscale Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong areas and the COEX Mall. Wholesale markets include Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market and Garak Market. The Yongsan Electronics Market is the largest electronics market in Asia. The Gasan Digital Complex also has an extensive variety of electronic products.

edit Architecture[edit | edit source]

See also: Architecture of South Korea[10][11]Seoul City Hall.The traditional heart of Seoul is the old Joseon Dynasty city, 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, was for many years covered with concrete, but was recently restored through an urban revival project in 2005. The most historically significant street in Seoul is Jongno, 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 usually rung now 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 Namsan. Further south are the old suburbs of Yongsan-gu and Mapo-gu. Across the Han River are the newer and wealthier areas of Gangnam-gu, Seocho-gu and surrounding neighborhoods.

edit Historical architecture[edit | edit source]

[12][13]Gyeongbokgung palace.Seoul has many historical and cultural landmarks. In Amsa-dong Preshistoric Settlement Site, Gangdong-gu, neolithic remains were excavated and accidentally discovered by a flood in 1925. 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 Dynasty built "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul: Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung, 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 as an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design". The main palace, Gyeongbokgung. is currently being restored to its original form. The palaces are considered exemplary architecture of the Joseon period. Beside the palaces, Unhyeongung is known for being 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 were built to regulate visitors from other regions and protect the city in case of invasion. Pungnap Toseong 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 another earthen wall built during the Baekje period which is now located inside the Olympic Park. The Castle Walls of Seoul (서울성곽; 서울城郭) are the remaining walls of Seoul from the Joseon Dynasty.

Although many walls and fortresses were demolished, some palace and fortress gates have played a role in the city's heart such as Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun. The gates are more commonly known as Namdaemun (South Great Gate) and Dongdaemun (East Great Gate). Namdaemun was the oldest wooden gate until a 2008 arson attack, and is currently undergoing reconstruction. Situated near the gates are the traditional markets and largest shopping center, Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Market.

There are also many buildings constructed with international styles in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The Independence Gate was built in 1897 to inspire an independent spirit from Sinosphere. Seoul Station was opened in 1900 as Gyeongseong Station.

edit Modern architecture[edit | edit source]

[14][15]Gangnam district in SeoulMajor modern landmarks in Seoul include the Korea Finance Building, N Seoul Tower, the World Trade Center and the seven-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 a vast array of skyscrapers; the city council is now planning a series of new highrises, including a 640-meter business center in Sangam Digital Media City district and the 523-meter Lotte World 2 Tower in the Jamsil (pronounced "Jam-shil") district of Songpa-gu and Gangdong-gu.

The World Trade Center of Korea, located in Gangnam-gu, 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 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.

In 2010, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, designed by Zaha Hadid, is scheduled to open. This will coincide with Seoul's designation as World Design Capital that year.

edit Culture[edit | edit source]

edit Museums[edit | edit source]

[16][17]National Museum of Korea Main article: List of museums in Seoul Seoul is home to over 100 museums including three national and nine official municipal museums. The National Museum of Korea is the most representative of museums in not only Seoul but all of South Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has built a collection of 150,000 artifacts. In October 2005, the museum moved to 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 Village are old residential districts consisting of hanok Korean traditional houses, parks, and museums that allows visitors to experience traditional Korean culture. The War Memorial, 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 the Japanese occupation and is currently used as a history museum.

The Seoul Museum of Art and Ilmin Museum of Art have preserved the appearance of the old building that is visually unique from the neighboring tall, modern buildings. The former is operated by Seoul City Council and sits adjacent to Gyeonghuigung Palace, a Joseon dynasty royal palace. For many Korean film lovers from all over the world, the Korean Film Archive is running the Korean Film Museum and Cinematheque KOFA in its main center located in Digital Media City(DMC), Sangam-dong. The Tteok & Kitchen Utensil Museum and Kimchi Field Museum provide information regarding Korean culinary history.

edit Religion[edit | edit source]

[18][19]Jongmyo There are also religious buildings that take important roles in Korean society and politics. The Wongudan altar was a sacrificial place where Korean rulers held heavenly rituals since the Three Kingdoms period. Since the Joseon Dynasty adopted Confucianism as its national ideology in the 14th century, the state built many Confucian shrines. The descendants of the Joseon royal family still continue to hold ceremonies to commemorate ancestors at Jongmyo. It is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and the ritual ceremonies continue a tradition established in 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. Jogyesa is the headquarters of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Hwagyesa and Bongeunsa are also major Buddhist temples in Seoul.

The Myeongdong Cathedral is a landmark of the Myeongdong district and the biggest Catholic church established in Korea. It is a symbol of Christianity in Korea. It was also a focus for political dissent in the late-20th century.

There are many Protestant churches in Seoul. The largest number are Presbyterian, but there are also Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran churches.

Seoul Central Mosque which is located at Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu was the first Mosque built in Korea after the Korean War. It is still the only mosque in Seoul, and is a tourist attraction for Koreans who visit on weekends to hear talks given on Islam.

edit Parks[edit | edit source]

See also: List of parks in Seoul[20][21] Seoul Olympic Park Namsan Park offers hiking, recreation and views of the downtown Seoul skyline. The N Seoul Tower is located here. Seoul Olympic Park is located in Songpa-gu and was built to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. The Wongaksa Pagoda 10 tier pagoda is situated In Tapgol Park, a small public park with an area of 19,599 m². Areas around streams serve as public places for relaxation and recreation. Tancheon stream and the nearby area serve as a large park with paths for both walkers and cyclists. Cheonggyecheon, a stream that runs nearly 6 km through downtown Seoul, is popular among both Seoul residents and tourists. The Seoul metropolitan area accommodates six major parks, including the Seoul Forest, which opened in mid-2005. The Seoul National Capital Area also contains a green belt aimed at preventing the city from sprawling out into neighboring Gyeonggi Province. These areas are frequently sought after by people looking to escape from urban life on weekends and during vacations.

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

edit Sports[edit | edit source]

[22][23] The Seoul Olympic Stadium seen from Han River.[24][25]Seoul World Cup Stadium.===edit 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 Stadium hosted the opening ceremony and first game of the tournament.

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

edit Domestic sports clubs[edit | edit source]

edit Baseball[edit | edit source]

Seoul has three professional baseball teams under the KBO: One of oldest clubs, Doosan Bears, LG Twins and NEXEN Heroes.

edit Football[edit | edit source]

Main article: Football in Seoul*Men's Football

Level League Club Home Stadium
Top tier K-League FC Seoul Seoul World Cup Stadium
2nd tier National League N/A N/A
3rd tier K3 League Seoul United Jamsil Olympic Stadium
Seoul FC Martyrs Gangbuk-gu Public Stadium
  • Women's Football
Level League Club Home Stadium
Top tier WK-League Seoul City Women's FC To be determined

edit Other sports[edit | edit source]

Seoul is also home to two basketball clubs in the KBL: Seoul Samsung Thunders and Seoul SK Knights.

Seoul's professional volleyball club, Seoul Woori Capital Dream Six, debuted in the 2009-2010 season.

Seoul is also home to Seoul Race Park, a thoroughbred racetrack which hosts the Korean Derby and other big races.

edit Transportation[edit | edit source]

Main article: Transportation in SeoulFile:923 Express subway Terminal3.jpg Line 9 platform of Express subway Terminal station, Seoul.Seoul's transportation system dates back to the era of the Korean Empire, 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 nine major subway lines stretching for more than 250 kilometers, with one additional line planned.

Seoul has more than three million registered vehicles and suffers from widespread traffic congestion.

edit Bus[edit | edit source]

Main article: 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 large intercity/express bus terminals. These buses connect Seoul with cities throughout South 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 metropolitan area, the municipal government is planning to convert over seven thousand of Seoul's diesel engine buses to natural gas by 2010.[25]

edit Subway[edit | edit source]

[26][27]Seoul Station.Main article: Seoul Metropolitan Subway Seoul has a comprehensive subway network that interconnects every district of the city and the surrounding areas. With more than 8 million passengers per day, Seoul has one of the busiest subway systems in the world. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway has 12 lines which serve Seoul, Incheon, Gyeonggi province and northern Chungnam province. In addition, in order to cope with the various modes of transport, 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, Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation, AREX and Metro 9

edit Train[edit | edit source]

Seoul is connected to every major city in Korea by rail. 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 (186 mph). Major railroad stations include:

edit Airports[edit | edit source]

[28][29]Incheon International Airport.Two international airports serve Seoul. Gimpo International Airport, formerly in Gimpo but annexed to Seoul in 1963, was for many years (since its original construction during the Korean War) the only international airport serving Seoul. Other domestic airports were also built around the time of the war, including Yeouido.

When it opened 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, Osaka Kansai International Airport 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, a major transportation center for East Asia.

Incheon and Gimpo are linked to Seoul by highways, and to each other by the Incheon International Airport Railroad, which is also linked to Incheon line #1. Gimpo is also linked by subway (line #5 and #9). The Incheon International Airport Railroad, currently under construction, is planned to connect the airport directly to Seoul Station in central Seoul but will not be completed for several years. Shuttle buses also transfer passengers between Incheon and Gimpo airports.

edit Education[edit | edit source]

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

edit Universities[edit | edit source]

Seoul is home to a large number of universities; the majority of South Korea prestigious universities, including so called SKY universities- Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University, have their main campuses in Seoul.

Seoul National University, colloquially known in Korean as Seoul-dae, is a national research university.

Korea University is a nonsectarian, private research university located primarily in Seoul. Founded in 1905, the university is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in South Korea.[26]

Yonsei University abbreviated as Yondae, is a private Christian research university in Seoul, and is the oldest university in South Korea (established in 1885).

(quoted from

edit Secondary Education[edit | edit source]

Education from grades 1-10 are compulsory. Students spend six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and three years in high school. Secondary schools generally require that the students wear uniforms. There is no exit exam for graduating from high school, but many students proceeding to the university level are required to take the Korean SAT exam that is held every November.

Seoul is home to various specialized high schools, including three science high school (Seoul Science High School, Hansung Science High School, and Sejong Science High School), six foreign language high schools (Daeil Foreign Language High School, Daewon Foreign Language High School, Myungdeok Foreign Language High School, Ewha Foreign Language High School, Hanyoung Foreign Language High School, and Seoul Foreign Language High School). Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education comprises 235 college-preparatory high schools,80 vocational schools, 377 middle schools,and 33 special education schools as of 2009.

edit International relations[edit | edit source]

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in South Korea===edit Twin towns — Sister cities=== Seoul has many twin towns and sister cities around the world:[in chronological order][27]

edit Independent cities in South Korea[edit | edit source]

edit See also[edit | edit source]

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