As the capital and largest city in South Korea, Seoul is a financial and cultural center of Asia. The population of the city is over 10 million, making it one of the largest cities in the entire world. The entire metropolitan area includes a population of over 24.5 million inhabitants, the second largest in the world. This accounts for nearly half of the entire population of the country. Seoul is also a strong political force in Asia, administered by a the national government directly and separated into a system of 25 districts. Located on the Han River, the city lies approximately 50 km from its neighbor, North Korea.
The name of Seoul has changed dramatically over the years. Other names for the city include Wirye-seong, Hanju, Namgyeong, Hanseong, Hanyang and Gyeongseong. The modern name comes from the Korean word meaning “capital city.”
The city is believed to have been established in 18 BC as a small settlement. It soon became part of the Joseon Dynasty, eventually becoming the capital in 1394. During Japanese occupation in the early part of the 20th century, the city went through a historical and cultural upheaval. Many of the traditional design elements were modernized or destroyed. During the Korean War following Japanese defeat, most of the city was razed through fighting between U.N. and Communist forces. The city was rebuilt very rapidly, however, during the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s, the Joseon dynasty’s royal palace of Gyeongbokgung was restored to its previous splendor.
In 1986, Seoul hosted the Asian Games. This was followed by a successful presentation of the 1988 Olympic Games. It also hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup, at which time the city constructed the amazing Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Culturally, Korea has a long tradition with its national sport, Tae Kwon Do. The city houses the Kukkiwon, where the World Tae Kwon Do Federation is headquartered. The city also features three baseball teams, two basketball teams and a football team.
Seoul is recognized as the fifth most expensive city to live in the world and the second-most in Asia. Its investments in high-tech digital technologies has made it a business leader throughout the world. Over the past few years, the country of South Korea has invested billions of dollars in development opportunities to keep the city at the height of global success.
The city offers one of the most well-developed and advanced transportation systems in the world. It is a global leader with a modernized train and rail system including and extensive subway infrastructure. It also offers environmentally friendly busing and supports two international airports.
Tourism is also one of the largest industries in the city. A variety of historic sites including the Hwaseong Fortress and Jongmyo Shrine, both world historical sites. A number of museums, parks and recreational options have also been created. Entertainment is quickly becoming one of the largest exports of Seoul and South Korea in general. A fledgling film industry as well as music and theater continue to make headway throughout Asia and the world, reaching European and American audiences and festivals to much acclaim.