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Seoul Special City
Flag of Seoul.png
Seal of Seoul, South Korea.svg
Logo of Seoul, South Korea.svg
Coat of arms
Seoul City New Brand.gif
South Korea physical map.svg
Red pog.svg
Asia laea relief location map.jpg
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Red pog.svg
Coordinates: 37°34′N126°58′E / 37.567°N 126.967°E / 37.567; 126.967 Coordinates: 37°34′N126°58′E / 37.567°N 126.967°E / 37.567; 126.967
Country South Korea
Region Seoul Capital Area
  Type Mayor–Council
   Mayor Park Won-soon ( Democratic )
  Body Seoul Metropolitan Government
Seoul Metropolitan Council
  National Representation
 -  National Assembly
49 / 300
16.3% (total seats)
49 / 253
19.4% (constituency seats)
   Special city 605.21 km2 (233.67 sq mi)
38 m (125 ft)
 (2018 [2] )
   Special city 9,838,892
  Density16,000/km2 (42,000/sq mi)
서울시민 (Seoul-simin), Seoulite
Bird Korean magpie
ColorSeoul Red [3]
Flower Forsythia
FontSeoul fonts (Seoul Hangang and Seoul Namsan) [4]
Slogan"I·SEOUL·U" [5]
Tree Ginkgo
Nominal GDP
(Special City)
US$329 billion [6]
Nominal GDP per capita
(Special City)
US$43,655 [7]
Seoul in Hangul (RS).svg
"Seoul" in hangul
Korean name
Revised Romanization Seoul
McCune–Reischauer Sŏul
Seoul Special Metropolitan City
Revised Romanization Seoul Teukbyeolsi
McCune–Reischauer Sŏul T'ŭkpyŏlsi

Seoul ( /sl/ , like soul; Korean : 서울 [sʌ.ul] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); lit."Capital"), officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital [8] and largest metropolis of South Korea. [9] With surrounding Incheon metropolis and Gyeonggi province, Seoul forms the heart of the Seoul Capital Area.

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Ukraine, and Central Asia.

Capital city Primary governing city of a top-level (country) or first-level subdivision (country, state, province, etc) political entity

A capital city is the municipality exercising primary status in a country, state, province, or other administrative region, usually as its seat of government. A capital is typically a city that physically encompasses the government's offices and meeting places; the status as capital is often designated by its law or constitution. In some jurisdictions, including several countries, the different branches of government are located in different settlements. In some cases, a distinction is made between the official (constitutional) capital and the seat of government, which is in another place.

Metropolis very large and significant city or urban area usually with millions of inhabitants

A metropolis is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. The term is Ancient Greek (μητρόπολις) and means the "mother city" of a colony, that is, the city which sent out settlers. This was later generalized to a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or any large, important city in a nation.


Strategically situated along the Han River, Seoul's history stretches back over two thousand years, when it was founded in 18 BCE by the people of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The city was later designated the capital of Korea under the Joseon dynasty. Seoul is surrounded by a mountainous and hilly landscape, with Bukhan Mountain located on the northern edge of the city. As with its long history, the Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. [10] More recently, Seoul has been a major site of modern architectural construction – major modern landmarks include the N Seoul Tower, the 63 Building, the Lotte World Tower, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Lotte World, Trade Tower, COEX, and the IFC Seoul. Seoul was named the 2010 World Design Capital. As the birthplace of K-pop and the Korean Wave, Seoul received over 10 million international visitors in 2014, [11] making it the world's 9th most visited city and 4th largest earner in tourism. [12]

Han River (Korea) The River in Seoul, South Korea

The Han River or Hangang is a major river in South Korea and the fourth longest river on the Korean peninsula after the Amnok (Yalu), Tuman (Tumen), and Nakdong rivers. The river begins as two smaller rivers in the eastern mountains of the Korean peninsula, which then converge near Seoul, the capital of the country.

Baekje Old kingdom of Korea

Baekje was a kingdom located in southwestern Korea. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, together with Goguryeo and Silla.

Three Kingdoms of Korea Period of Korean history, where three kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla) coexisted on the Korean peninsula

The Three Kingdoms of Korea refers to the three kingdoms of Baekje, Silla and Goguryeo. Goguryeo was later known as Goryeo, from which the modern name Korea is derived. The Three Kingdoms period is defined as being from 57 BC to 668 AD.

Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from the South Korean economic boom – commonly referred to as the Miracle on the Han River – which transformed it into the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$635.4 billion [13] in 2014 after Tokyo, New York City and Los Angeles. International visitors generally reach Seoul via AREX from the Incheon International Airport, notable for having been rated the best airport for nine consecutive years (2005–2013) by the Airports Council International. In 2015, it was rated Asia's most livable city with the second highest quality of life globally by Arcadis, with the GDP per capita (PPP) in Seoul being $39,786. Inhabitants of Seoul are faced with a high cost of living, for which the city was ranked 6th globally in 2017. [14] [15] [16] Seoul is also an extremely expensive real estate market, ranked 5th in the world for the price of apartments in the downtown center. [17] With major technology hubs centered in Gangnam and Digital Media City, [18] the Seoul Capital Area is home to the headquarters of 15 Fortune Global 500 companies, including Samsung, [19] LG, and Hyundai. Ranked sixth in the Global Power City Index and Global Financial Centres Index, the metropolis exerts a major influence in global affairs as one of the five leading hosts of global conferences. [20] Seoul has hosted the 1986 Asian Games, 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, and more recently the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit.

A global city, also called a power city, world city, alpha city or world center, is a city which is a primary node in the global economic network. The concept comes from geography and urban studies, and the idea that globalization is created, facilitated, and enacted in strategic geographic locales according to a hierarchy of importance to the operation of the global system of finance and trade.

Miracle on the Han River Period of rapid economic growth in South Korea following the Korean War (1950-1953)

The Miracle on the Han River refers to the period of rapid economic growth in South Korea following the Korean War (1950–1953), during which South Korea transformed from a developing country to a developed country. The rapid reconstruction and development of the South Korean economy during the latter half of the 20th century was accompanied by events such as the country's successful hosting of the 1988 Summer Olympics and its co-hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as well as the ascension of family-owned conglomerates known as chaebols, such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai.

Gross domestic product market value of goods and services produced within a country

Gross domestic products (GDP) is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period, often annually. GDP (nominal) per capita does not, however, reflect differences in the cost of living and the inflation rates of the countries; therefore using a basis of GDP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) is arguably more useful when comparing differences in living standards between nations.


The city has been known in the past by the names Wiryeseong (Korean : 위례성; Hanja : 慰禮城, during the Baekje era), Hanyang (한양;漢陽, during the Goryeo era), Hanseong (한성;漢城, during the Joseon era), Keijō (경성;京城, during the colonial era). [21]

Wiryeseong human settlement

Wiryeseong was the name of two early capitals of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Both are believed to have been in the modern-day Seoul area. According to Samguk Sagi, Onjo, the son of Goguryeo's founder Jumong, founded the nation of Sipje on Wiryeseong in 18 BC, while his elder brother Biryu established himself in Michuhol further to the west. The location of Michuhol is usually believed to be present-day Incheon.

Hanja Korean language characters of Chinese origin

Hanja is the Korean name for Chinese characters. More specifically, it refers to the Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation. Hanja-mal or Hanja-eo refers to words that can be written with Hanja, and hanmun refers to Classical Chinese writing, although "Hanja" is sometimes used loosely to encompass these other concepts. Because Hanja never underwent major reform, they are almost entirely identical to traditional Chinese and kyūjitai characters, though the stroke orders for some characters are slightly different. For example, the characters and are written as 敎 and 硏. Only a small number of Hanja characters are modified or unique to Korean. By contrast, many of the Chinese characters currently in use in Japan and Mainland China have been simplified, and contain fewer strokes than the corresponding Hanja characters.

History of Seoul history of the capital city of South Korea

The history of Seoul can be traced back as far as 18 BC, although humans have occupied the area now known as Seoul since Paleolithic Age. It has been the capital of numerous kingdoms on the Korean Peninsula since it was established.

During Japan's annexation of Korea, "Hanseong" (漢城) was renamed "Keijō"(京城) by the Imperial authorities to prevent confusion with the hanja ' ' (a transliteration of an ancient Korean word "Han" ( ) meaning "Great"), which refers to Han people or the Han dynasty and in Japanese is a term for "China". [22]

Korea under Japanese rule Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910–1945

Japanese Korea refers to the period when Korea was under Japanese rule, between 1910 and 1945.

Han dynasty 3rd-century BC to 3rd-century AD Chinese dynasty

The Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms period. Spanning over four centuries, the Han period is considered a golden age in Chinese history. To this day, China's majority ethnic group refers to themselves as the "Han Chinese" and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters". It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han, and briefly interrupted by the Xin dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang. This interregnum separates the Han dynasty into two periods: the Western Han or Former Han and the Eastern Han or Later Han (25–220 AD).

Its current name originated from the Korean word meaning "capital city", which is believed to have descended from an ancient word, Seorabeol (Korean : 서라벌; Hanja : 徐羅伐), which originally referred to Gyeongju, the capital of Silla. [23] Ancient Gyeongju was also known in documents by the Chinese-style name Geumseong (金城, literally "Gold Castle/City" or "Metal Castle/City"), but it is unclear whether the native Korean-style name Seorabeol had the same meaning as Geumseong.

Gyeongju Municipal City in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea

Gyeongju, historically known as Seorabeol, is a coastal city in the far southeastern corner of North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea. It is the second largest city by area in the province after Andong, covering 1,324 km2 (511 sq mi) with a population of 264,091 people Gyeongju is 370 km (230 mi) southeast of Seoul, and 55 km (34 mi) east of Daegu. The city borders Cheongdo and Yeongcheon to the west, Ulsan to the south and Pohang to the north, while to the east lies the coast of the Sea of Japan. Numerous low mountains—outliers of the Taebaek range—are scattered around the city.

Silla Old kingdom of Korea

Silla was a kingdom located in southern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula. Silla, along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

Unlike most place names in Korea, "Seoul" has no corresponding hanja (Chinese characters used in the Korean language). On January 18, 2005, the Seoul government changed its official Chinese name from the historic Hancheng (simplified Chinese :汉城; traditional Chinese :漢城; pinyin :Hànchéng), which was still in common use, to Shou'er (simplified Chinese:首尔; traditional Chinese:首爾; pinyin:Shǒu'ěr). [24] [25] [26]


Settlement of the Han River area, where present-day Seoul is located, began around 4000 BCE. [27]

Seoul is first recorded as Wiryeseong, the capital of Baekje (founded in 18 BCE) in the northeastern area of modern Seoul. [27] There are several city walls remaining in the area that date from this time. Pungnaptoseong, an earthen wall located southeast Seoul, is widely believed to have been at the main Wiryeseong site. [28] As the Three Kingdoms competed for this strategic region, control passed from Baekje to Goguryeo in the 5th century, and from Goguryeo to Silla in the 6th century. [29]

In the 11th century Goryeo, which succeeded Unified Silla, built a summer palace in Seoul, which was referred to as the "Southern Capital". It was only from this period that Seoul became a larger settlement. [27] When Joseon replaced Goryeo, the capital was moved to Seoul (also known as Hanyang or Hanseong), where it remained until the fall of the dynasty. The Gyeongbok Palace, built in the 14th century, served as the royal residence until 1592. The other large palace, Changdeokgung, constructed in 1405, served as the main royal palace from 1611 to 1872. [27] After Joseon changed her name to the Korean Empire in 1897, Hwangseong also designated Seoul.

Originally, the city was entirely surrounded by a massive circular stone wall to provide its citizens security from wild animals, thieves and attacks. The city has grown beyond those walls and although the wall no longer stands (except along Bugaksan Mountain (Korean : 북악산; Hanja : 北岳山), north of the downtown area [30] ), the gates remain near the downtown district of Seoul, including most notably Sungnyemun (commonly known as Namdaemun) and Heunginjimun (commonly known as Dongdaemun). [31] During the Joseon dynasty, the gates were opened and closed each day, accompanied by the ringing of large bells at the Bosingak belfry. [32] In the late 19th century, after hundreds of years of isolation, Seoul opened its gates to foreigners and began to modernize. Seoul became the first city in East Asia to introduce electricity in the royal palace, built by the Edison Illuminating Company [33] and a decade later Seoul also implemented electrical street lights. [34]

Much of the development was due to trade with foreign countries like France and the United States. For example, the Seoul Electric Company, Seoul Electric Trolley Company, and Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company were all joint Korean–American owned enterprises. [35] In 1904, an American by the name of Angus Hamilton visited the city and said, "The streets of Seoul are magnificent, spacious, clean, admirably made and well-drained. The narrow, dirty lanes have been widened, gutters have been covered, roadways broadened. Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the highest, most interesting and cleanest city in the East." [36]

After the annexation treaty in 1910, the Empire of Japan annexed Korea and renamed the city Gyeongseong ("Kyongsong" in Korean and "Keijo" in Japanese). Japanese technology was imported, the city walls were removed, some of the gates demolished. Roads became paved and Western-style buildings were constructed. The city was liberated by US forces at the end of World War II. [27]

In 1945, the city was officially named Seoul, and was designated as a special city in 1949. [27]

During the Korean War, Seoul changed hands between the Russian/Chinese-backed North Korean forces and the American-backed South Korean forces several times, leaving the city heavily damaged after the war. The capital was temporarily relocated to Busan. [27] One estimate of the extensive damage states that after the war, at least 191,000 buildings, 55,000 houses, and 1,000 factories lay in ruins. In addition, a flood of refugees had entered Seoul during the war, swelling the population of the city and its metropolitan area to an estimated 1.5 million by 1955. [37]

Following the war, Seoul began to focus on reconstruction and modernization. As Korea's economy started to grow rapidly from the 1960s, urbanization also accelerated and workers began to move to Seoul and other larger cities. [37] From the 1970s, the size of Seoul administrative area greatly expanded as it annexed a number of towns and villages from several surrounding counties. [38]

Until 1972, Seoul was claimed by North Korea as its de jure capital, being specified as such in Article 103 of the 1948 North Korean constitution. [39]

According to 2012 census data, the population of the Seoul area makes up around 20% of the total population of South Korea, [40] Seoul has become the economic, political and cultural hub of the country, [27] with several Fortune Global 500 companies, including Samsung, SK Holdings, Hyundai, POSCO and LG Group headquartered there. [41]

Seoul was the host city of the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Summer Olympics as well as one of the venues of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.


Seoul is in the northwest of South Korea. Seoul proper comprises 605.25 km2 (233.69 sq mi), [1] with a radius of approximately 15 km (9 mi), 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). [42] 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. Historically, the city was during the Joseon dynasty bounded by the Seoul Fortress Wall, which stretched between the four main mountains in central Seoul: Namsan, Naksan, Bukhansan and Inwangsan. The city is bordered by eight mountains, as well as the more level lands of the Han River plain and western areas. Due to its geography and to economic development policies, Seoul is a very polycentric city. The area that was the old capital in the Joseon dynasty, and mostly comprises Jongno District and Jung District, constitutes the historical and political center of the city. However, for example, the city's financial capital is widely considered to be in Yeouido, while its economic capital is Gangnam District.


Seoul has a humid subtropical climate influenced by the monsoons (Köppen: Cwa), being in the extreme east Asia the climate can be described as humid continental with great variation of the precipitation throughout the year and warm to hot summer (Dwa, by 0 °C isoterm). [43] [44] The suburbs of Seoul are generally cooler than the center of Seoul because of the urban heat island effect. [45] Summers are generally hot and humid, with the East Asian monsoon taking place from June until September. August, the hottest month, has average high and low temperatures of 32.6 and 23.4 °C (91 and 74 °F) with higher temperatures possible. Winters are usually cold to freezing with average January high and low temperatures of 1.5 and −5.9 °C (34.7 and 21.4 °F) and are generally much drier than summers, with an average of 24.9 days of snow annually. Sometimes, temperatures drop dramatically to below −10 °C (14 °F), and on some occasions as low as −15 °C (5 °F) in the mid winter period of January and February. Temperatures below −20 °C (−4 °F) have been recorded.

Climate data for Seoul (normals 1981–2010, extremes 1907–present)
Record high °C (°F)14.4
Average high °C (°F)1.5
Daily mean °C (°F)−2.4
Average low °C (°F)−5.9
Record low °C (°F)−22.5
Average precipitation mm (inches)20.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)
Average snowy days8.
Average relative humidity (%)59.857.957.856.262.768.178.375.669.
Mean monthly sunshine hours 160.3163.3189.0205.0213.0182.0120.0152.5176.2198.8153.2152.62,066
Percent possible sunshine 52.353.651.051.948.441.226.836.
Average ultraviolet index 23578910974326
Source: Korea Meteorological Administration [46] [47] [48] (percent sunshine and snowy days) [49] and Weather Atlas [50]

Air quality

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Very Unhealthy
Unhealthy for sensitive groups
According to the Environmental Performance Index 2016, South Korea ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in terms of air quality. More than 50 percent of the populations in South Korea exposed to dangerous levels of fine dust. 2015 PM2.5 Air Pollution Index in Seoul (hourly).png
   Very Unhealthy
   Unhealthy for sensitive groups
According to the Environmental Performance Index 2016, South Korea ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in terms of air quality. More than 50 percent of the populations in South Korea exposed to dangerous levels of fine dust.

Air pollution is a major issue in Seoul. [53] [54] [55] [56] According to the 2016 World Health Organization Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, [57] the annual average PM2.5 concentration in 2014 was 24 micrograms per cubic metre (1.0×10−5 gr/cu ft), which is 2.4 times higher than that recommended by the WHO Air Quality Guidelines [58] for the annual mean PM2.5. The Seoul Metropolitan Government monitors and publicly shares real-time air quality data. [59]

Since the early 1960s, the Ministry of Environment has implemented a range of policies and air pollutant standards to improve and manage air quality for its people. [60] The "Special Act on the Improvement of Air Quality in the Seoul Metropolitan Area" was passed in December 2003. Its 1st Seoul Metropolitan Air Quality Improvement Plan (2005–2014) focused on improving the concentrations of PM10 and nitrogen dioxide by reducing emissions. [61] As a result, the annual average PM10 concentrations decreased from 70.0 μg/m3 in 2001 to 44.4 μg/m3 in 2011 [62] and 46 μg/m3 in 2014. [57] As of 2014, the annual average PM10 concentration was still at least twice than that recommended by the WHO Air Quality Guidelines. [58] The 2nd Seoul Metropolitan Air Quality Improvement Plan (2015–2024) added PM2.5 and ozone to its list of managed pollutants. [63]

Asian dust, emissions from Seoul and in general from the rest of South Korea, as well as emissions from China, all contribute to Seoul's air quality. [54] [64] A partnership between researchers in South Korea and the United States is conducting an international air quality field study in Korea (KORUS-AQ) to determine how much each source contributes. [65]


Administrative districts

Districts of Seoul 01-00-seoul-en.svg
Districts of Seoul
Seoul City Hall Seoul City Hall.jpg
Seoul City Hall

Seoul is divided into 25 gu (Korean : ; Hanja : ) (district). [66] The gu vary greatly in area (from 10 to 47 km2 or 3.9 to 18.1 sq mi) and population (from fewer than 140,000 to 630,000). Songpa has the most people, while Seocho has 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 " (;) or neighbourhoods. Some gu have only a few dong while others like Jongno District have a very large number of distinct neighbourhoods. Gu of Seoul consist of 423 administrative dongs (행정동) in total. [66] Dong are also sub-divided into 13,787 tong (;), which are further divided into 102,796 ban in total.


Seoul proper is noted for its population density, which is almost twice that of New York and eight times greater than Rome. Its metropolitan area was the most densely populated among OECD countries in Asia in 2012, and second worldwide after that of Paris. [67] As of 2015, the population was 9.86 million, [68] in 2012, it was 10.44 million.

[69] As of the end of June 2011, 10.29 million Republic of Korea citizens lived in the city. This was a 0.24% decrease from the end of 2010. The population of Seoul has been dropping since the early 1990s, the reasons being the high costs of living, urban sprawling to Gyeonggi region's satellite bed cities and an aging population. [68]

As of 2016, the number of foreigners living in Seoul was 404,037, 22.9% of the total foreign population in South Korea. [70] As of June 2011, 186,631 foreigners were Chinese citizens of Korean ancestry. This was an 8.84% increase from the end of 2010 and a 12.85% increase from June 2010. The next largest group was Chinese citizens who are not of Korean ethnicity; 29,901 of them resided in Seoul. The next highest group consisted of the 9,999 United States citizens who were not of Korean ancestry. The next highest group were Taiwanese citizens, at 8,717. [71]

The two major religions in Seoul are Christianity and Buddhism. Other religions include Muism (indigenous religion) and Confucianism. Seoul is home to one of the world's largest Christian congregations, Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has around 830,000 members. [72]

Seoul is home to the world's largest modern university founded by a Buddhist Order, Dongguk University. [73]


Gangnam Commercial Area Gangam-001.jpg
Gangnam Commercial Area

Seoul is the business and financial hub of South Korea. Although it accounts for only 0.6 percent of the nation's land area, 48.3 percent of South Korea's bank deposits were held in Seoul in 2003, [75] and the city generated 23 percent of the country's GDP overall in 2012. [76] In 2008 the Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index ranked Seoul No.9. [77] The Global Financial Centres Index in 2015 listed Seoul as the 6th financially most competitive city in the world. [78] The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Seoul 15th in the list of "Overall 2025 City Competitiveness" regarding future competitiveness of cities. [79]


The traditional, labour-intensive manufacturing industries have been continuously replaced by information technology, electronics and assembly-type of industries; [80] [81] however, food and beverage production, as well as printing and publishing remained among the core industries. [80] Major manufacturers are headquartered in the city, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia and SK. Notable food and beverage companies include Jinro, whose soju is the most sold alcoholic drink in the world, beating out Smirnoff vodka; [82] top selling beer producers Hite (merged with Jinro) and Oriental Brewery. [83] It also hosts food giants like Seoul Dairy Cooperative, Nongshim Group, Ottogi, CJ, Orion, Maeil Holdings, Namyang Dairy Products and Lotte.


Yeouido Yeouido.png

Seoul hosts large concentration of headquarters of International companies and banks, including 15 companies on fortune 500 list such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai. [84] Most bank headquarters and the Korea Exchange are located in Yeouido (Yeoui island), [80] which is often called "South Korea's Wall Street" and has been serving as the financial center of the city since the 1980s. [85] The Seoul international finance center & SIFC MALL, Hanhwa 63 building, the Hanhwa insurance company head office. Hanhwa is one of the three largest South Korean insurance companies, along with Samsung Life and Gangnam & Kyobo life insurance group.


Lotte World Tower and Jamsil Railway Bridge Lotte World Tower at sunset.jpg
Lotte World Tower and Jamsil Railway Bridge

The largest wholesale and retail market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market, is located in Seoul. [86] Myeongdong is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul with mid- to high-end stores, fashion boutiques and international brand outlets. [87] The nearby Namdaemun Market, named after the Namdaemun Gate, is the oldest continually running market in Seoul. [88]

Insadong is the cultural art market of Seoul, where traditional and modern Korean artworks, such as paintings, sculptures and calligraphy are sold. [89] Hwanghak-dong Flea Market and Janganpyeong Antique Market also offer antique products. [90] [91] Some shops for local designers have opened in Samcheong-dong, where numerous small art galleries are located. While Itaewon had catered mainly to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city, Koreans now comprise the majority of visitors to the area. [92] The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul [92] 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. Electronics markets are Gangbyeon station metro line 2 Techno mart, ENTER6 MALL & Shindorim station Technomart mall complex. [93]

Times Square is one of Seoul's largest shopping malls featuring the CGV Starium, the world's largest permanent 35 mm cinema screen. [94]

Korea World Trade Center Complex, which comprises COEX mall, congress center, 3 Inter-continental hotels, Business tower (Asem tower), Residence hotel, Casino and City airport terminal was established in 1988 in time for the Seoul Olympics . The 2nd World trade trade center is being planned at Seoul Olympic stadium complex as MICE HUB by Seoul city. Ex-Kepco head office building was purchased by Hyundai motor group with 9billion USD to build 115-storey Hyundai GBC & hotel complex until 2021. Now ex-kepco 25-storey building is under demolition.


Seoul has been described as the world's "most wired city", [95] ranked first in technology readiness by PwC's Cities of Opportunity report. [96] Seoul has a very technologically advanced infrastructure. [97] [98]

Seoul is among the world leaders in Internet connectivity, being the capital of South Korea, which has the world's highest fibre-optic broadband penetration and highest global average internet speeds of 26.1 Mbit/s. [99] [100] Since 2015, Seoul has provided free Wi-Fi access in outdoor spaces through a 47.7 billion won ($44 million) project with Internet access at 10,430 parks, streets and other public places. [101] Internet speeds in some apartment buildings reach up to 52.5Gbit/s with assistance from Nokia, and though the average standard consists of 100 Mbit/s services, providers nationwide are rapidly rolling out 1Gbit/s connections at the equivalent of US$20 per month. [102] In addition, the city is served by the KTX high-speed rail and the Seoul Subway, which provides 4G LTE, WiFi and DMB inside subway cars. 5G will be introduced commercially in March 2019 in Seoul.


Sungnyemun (commonly known as Namdaemun) Sungryemun of seoul.jpg
Sungnyemun (commonly known as Namdaemun)

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 by an urban revival project in 2005. [103] Jongno street, meaning "Bell Street", has been a principal street and one of the earliest commercial streets of the city, [104] [105] on which one can find Bosingak, a pavilion containing a large bell. The bell signaled the different times of the day and controlled the four major gates to the city. North of downtown is Bukhan Mountain, and to the south is the smaller Namsan. Further south are the old suburbs, Yongsan District and Mapo District. Across the Han River are the newer and wealthier areas of Gangnam District, Seocho District and surrounding neighborhoods.

Historical architecture

Seoul has many historical and cultural landmarks. In Amsa-dong Prehistoric Settlement Site, Gangdong District, neolithic remains were excavated and accidentally discovered by a flood in 1925. [106]

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 the "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul – Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung – all of which are located in Jongno and Jung Districts. 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, underwent a large-scale restoration project. [107] 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 an 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 (Korean : 몽촌토성; Hanja : 蒙村土城) is another earthen wall built during the Baekje period that is now located inside the Olympic Park. [28] The Fortress Wall of Seoul was built early in the Joseon dynasty for protection of the city. After many centuries of destruction and rebuilding, about ⅔ of the wall remains, as well as six of the original eight gates. These gates include Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun, commonly known as Namdaemun (South Great Gate) and Dongdaemun (East Great Gate). Namdaemun was the oldest wooden gate until a 2008 arson attack, and was re-opened after complete restoration in 2013. [108] 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. Seoul Station was opened in 1900 as Gyeongseong Station.

Modern architecture

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Dongdaemun Design Plaza at night, Seoul, Korea.jpg
Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Various high-rise office buildings and residential buildings, like the Gangnam Finance Center, the Tower Palace, Namsan Seoul Tower, and the Lotte World Tower, dominate the city's skyline. The tallest building is Lotte World Tower, reaching a height of 555m. It opened to the public in April 2017.

The World Trade Center Seoul, located in Gangnam District, hosts various expositions and conferences. Also in Gangnam District is the COEX Mall, a large indoor shopping and entertainment complex. Downstream from Gangnam District is Yeouido, an 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 Yoido Full Gospel Church. The Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, and Lotte World are located in Songpa District, on the south side of the Han River, upstream from Gangnam District. Three new modern landmarks of Seoul are Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, designed by Zaha Hadid, the new wave-shaped Seoul City Hall, by Yoo Kerl of iArc, and the Lotte World Tower, the 5th tallest building in the world designed by Kohn Pederson Fox.

In 2010 Seoul was designated the World Design Capital for the year. [109]



National Museum of Korea National Museum of Korea, Seoul (2) (40236586235).jpg
National Museum of Korea
National Folk Museum of Korea. Folk Museum of Korea.jpg
National Folk Museum of Korea.

Seoul is home to 115 museums, [110] including four national and nine official municipal museums. Amongst the city's national museum, 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 220,000 artifacts. [111] 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 District and uses replicas of historical objects to illustrate the folk history of the Korean people. [112] The National Palace Museum of Korea is also located on the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Finally, the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, whose main museum is located in Gwacheon, opened in 2013, in Sogyeok-dong.

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. [113] [114]

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. [115] [116] The Seodaemun Prison is a former prison built during the Japanese occupation, and is currently used as a historic museum. [117]

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. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, is widely regarded as one of Seoul's largest private museum. 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.

Religious monuments

Myeongdong Cathedral Seoul Cathedral.jpg
Myeongdong Cathedral

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. Sajikdan, 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, Jung District and the biggest Catholic church in Seoul established in 1883. It is a symbol of Catholicism in Korea. It was also a focus for political dissent in the 1980s. In this way the Roman Catholic Church has a very strong influence in Korean society. And Yakhyeon Catholic Church in Jungnim-dong, Jung District is first Catholic parish in Korea. It has been the first Gothic church ever built in Korea.

There are many Protestant churches in Seoul. The most numerous are Presbyterian, but there are also many Methodist and Baptist churches. Yoido Full Gospel Church is a Pentecostal church affiliated with the Assemblies of God on Yeouido in Seoul. With approximately 830,000 members (2007), it is the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in the world, which has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.[ citation needed ]

The St. Nicholas Cathedral, but sometimes called bald church, is the only Byzantine-style church in Seoul. It is located in Ahyeon-dong, Mapo District, and is cathedral of the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea. In 2015, it was designated as a Seoul Future Heritage.


In October 2012 KBS Hall in Seoul hosted major international music festivals – First ABU TV and Radio Song Festivals within frameworks of Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union 49th General Assembly. [118] [119] Hi! Seoul Festival is a seasonal cultural festival held four times a year every spring, summer, autumn, and winter in Seoul, South Korea since 2003. It is based on the "Seoul Citizens' Day" held on every October since 1994 to commemorate the 600 years history of Seoul as the capital of the country. The festival is arranged under the Seoul Metropolitan Government. As of 2012, Seoul has hosted Ultra Music Festival Korea, an annual dance music festival that takes place on the 2nd weekend of June. [120]


Namsan Park N-Seoul-Tower and Namsan Park (26876783888).jpg
Namsan Park
Hangang Park Hangang Park Overview 201604.jpg
Hangang Park

Despite the city's population density, Seoul has a large quantity of parks. One of the most famous parks is Namsan Park, which offers recreational hiking and views of the downtown Seoul skyline. The N Seoul Tower is located at Namsan Park. Seoul Olympic Park, located in Songpa District and built to host the 1988 Summer Olympics is Seoul's largest park. Amongst the other largest parks in the city are Seoul Forest, Dream Forest, Children's Grand Park and Haneul Park. The Wongaksa Pagoda 10 tier pagoda is situated In Tapgol Park, a small public park with an area of 19,599 m2 (210,962 sq ft). 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 (4 mi) through downtown Seoul, is popular among both Seoul residents and tourists. In 2017 the Seoullo 7017 Skypark opened, spanning diagonally overtop Seoul Station.

There are also many parks along the Han River, such as Ichon Hangang Park, Yeouido Hangang Park, Mangwon Hangang Park, Nanji Hangang Park, Banpo Hangang Park, Ttukseom Hangang Park and Jamsil Hangang Park. 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. There are also various parks under construction or in project, such as the Gyeongui Line Forest Trail, Seoul Station 7017, Seosomun Memorial Park and Yongsan Park.

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.


The SBS headquarters in the Yangcheon District Mokdong Yangcheon-gu.JPG
The SBS headquarters in the Yangcheon District

Seoul is home of the major South Korean networks KBS, SBS (Yangcheon), and MBC (Mapu). The city is also home to the major South Korean newspapers Chosun Ilbo, Donga Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo, and Hankook Ilbo.


Seoul Olympic Stadium Seoul.Olympic.Stadium.01 copy.jpg
Seoul Olympic Stadium
Fireworks at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul Fireworks at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Games.JPEG
Fireworks at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

Seoul is a major center for sports in South Korea. Seoul has the largest number of professional sports teams and facilities in South Korea.

In the history of South Korean major professional sports league championships, which include the K League, KBO League, KBL, V-League, Seoul had multiple championships in a season 2 times, 1990 K League Classi Lucky-Goldstar FC (currently FC Seoul) and KBO League LG Twins in 1990, K League Classic FC Seoul and KBO League Doosan Bears in 2016. [121]

International competition

Seoul hosted the 1986 Asian Games, also known as Asiad, 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 South Korea's national sport and Seoul is the location of the Kukkiwon, the world headquarters of taekwondo, as well as the World Taekwondo Federation.

Domestic sports clubs


Seoul's most well-known football club is FC Seoul.

  • Men's football
TierLeagueClubHome stadium
Top K League 1 FC Seoul Seoul World Cup Stadium
2nd K League 2 Seoul E-Land Seoul Olympic Stadium
5th K3 League Basic Seoul United Madeul Stadium
Jungnang Chorus Mustang Jungnang Public Ground
  • Women's football
TierLeagueClubHome stadium
Top WK League Seoul WFC Hyochang Stadium, Seoul Olympic Auxiliary Stadium


LeagueClubHome stadium
KBO League
LG Twins Jamsil Baseball Stadium
Doosan Bears
Kiwoom Heroes Gocheok Sky Dome


LeagueClubHome stadium
Seoul SK Knights Jamsil Students' Gymnasium
Seoul Samsung Thunders Jamsil Arena


LeagueDivisionClubHome stadium
Men Seoul Woori Card Wibee Jangchung Arena
Women GS Caltex Seoul KIXX



Seoul has a well developed transportation network. Its 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. [122] 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 km (155 mi), with one additional line planned. As of 2010, 25% of the population has a commute time of an hour or more.


Seoul Buses Seoul Buses.png
Seoul Buses

Seoul's bus system is operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (S.M.G.), 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 District. In addition, East Seoul Bus Terminal in Gwangjin District and Sangbong Terminal in Jungnang District handles traffics mainly from Gangwon and Chungcheong provinces.

Urban rail

Seoul Station Seoul Station Entrance.jpg
Seoul Station

Seoul has a comprehensive urban railway network of 21 rapid transit, light metro and commuter lines that interconnects every district of the city and the surrounding areas of Incheon, Gyeonggi province, western Gangwon province, and northern Chungnam province. With more than 8 million passengers per day, the subway has one of the busiest subway systems in the world and the largest in the world, with a total track length of 940 km (580 mi). 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, NeoTrans Co. Ltd., AREX, and Seoul Metro Line 9 Corporation.


KTX Sancheon KTX-Sancheon.jpg
KTX Sancheon

Seoul is connected to every major city in South Korea by rail. Seoul is also linked to most major South Korean cities by the KTX high-speed train, which has a normal operation speed of more than 300 km/h (186 mph). Another train that stops at all major stops are the Mugunghwa and Saemaeul trains. Major railroad stations include:


Two international airports, Incheon International and Gimpo International, serve Seoul.

Gimpo International Airport opened in 1939 as Japanese Imperial Army airfield, and opened for civil aircraft in 1957. Since opening of Incheon International, Gimpo International handles scheduled domestic flights along with selected short haul international shuttle flights to Tokyo Haneda, Osaka Kansai, Taipei Songshan, Shanghai Hongqiao, and Beijing Capital.

Incheon International Airport, opened in March 2001 in Yeongjong island, is now responsible for major international flights. Incheon International Airport is Asia's eighth busiest airport in terms of passengers, the world's fourth busiest airport by cargo traffic, and the world's eighth busiest airport in terms of international passengers in 2014. In 2016, 57,765,397 passengers used the airport. Incheon International Airport expanded its size by opening terminal 2 on January 18, 2018.

Incheon and Gimpo are linked to Seoul by expressway, and to each other by the AREX to Seoul Station. Intercity bus services are available to various destinations around the country.


Cycling is becoming increasingly popular in Seoul and in the entire country. Both banks of the Han River have cycling paths that run all the way across the city along the river. In addition, Seoul introduced in 2015 a bicycle-sharing system named Ddareungi (and named Seoul Bike in English). [123]



Entrance of Seoul National University SNU gate.jpg
Entrance of Seoul National University

Seoul is home to the majority of South Korea's most prestigious universities, including Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Korea University.

Seoul ranked 10th on the QS Best Student Cities 2019. [124]

Secondary education

Compulsory education lasts from grade 1–9 (six years of elementary school and 3 years of middle school). [125] Students spend six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and three years in high school. Secondary schools generally require students wear uniforms. There is an exit exam for graduating from high school and many students proceeding to the university level are required to take the College Scholastic Ability Test that is held every November. Although there is a test for non-high school graduates, called school qualification exam, most Koreans take the test.

Seoul is home to various specialized schools, including three science high schools, and six foreign language High Schools. 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.

International relations

Seoul is a member of the Asian Network of Major Cities 21 and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. In addition, Seoul hosts many embassies of countries it has diplomatic ties with.

Sister cities

Seoul has 24 sister cities: [126]

See also

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Preceded by
Capital of Baekje
18 BC – 475 AD
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Capital of Korea
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New creation
Capital of South Korea
Succeeded by