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Located to the west of the central region of the Korean Peninsula, Seoul, the capital city of the Republic of Korea, has been the center of the country in its long history from the prehistoric era to the present day.
Seoul emerged as the capital city before the Common Era. Its emergence occurred during the early days of Baekje, one of the three kingdoms that existed in the peninsula for over a millennium. Baekje’s rich and brilliant culture became the basis for cultivating Korea’s cultural history. During the Three Kingdoms Era, it was the strategic region all those three rival countries competed for, which illustrates the substantial significance of Seoul during that era.
After the unified Silla period and the Goryeo Dynasty, Seoul again became the capital of the Joseon Dynasty with its foundation in 1394. Since then, the city has been maintained as the historical center of the country.
Now in its 600th year of official history, Seoul is a city where Korea’s traditional and modern cultures coexist. Geographically, it is an extraordinary example of good location, as mountains, rivers and urban spaces all combine to produce a picture-perfect city.
Actively introducing Western culture and institutions, Seoul took its initial step as a modern place since opening its gates to the world outside in the late 19th century. It became the first Korean city to have railways and trolley cars, as well as telephone and Western-style schools. In 1885, Gwanghyewon, Korea’s first modern hospital, opened here.
The city was called “Hanyang” in the Joseon Era and “Gyeongseongbu” in the Japanese colonial period, before getting the current name of Seoul on August 15, 1945, when Korea was liberated from the Japanese occupation. In the next year, it was promoted to an entity legally equal to other provinces of the country. Seoul was designated as the capital city with the establishment of the Korean government in 1948, and became the Seoul Metropolis a year later.
In 1950, Seoul was heavily damaged as the Korean War broke out and couldn’t function as a capital for several months. However, post-war reconstruction efforts and the strong will of its residents saw the city re-emerge as the country’s central city.
On January 1, 1963, Seoul incorporated some Gyeonggi-do regions, south of Hangang, into its territory in a bid to expand the city’s administrative districts. This also paved the way for its balanced development. In the 1970s, southern areas of Hangagn were intensively developed for better municipal operations, which resulted in the rapid growth of the current Gangnam area.
It was during this decade that Seoul led the country’s swift economic growth. Described as being the “miracle of the Han River”, South Korea achieved, in 30 to 40 years, the type of industrialization that took most advanced countries over a century.
Seoul came under the global spotlight by winning the bid to host the 1988 Summer Olympics.
The city was chosen to host the biggest international sports festival in a vote held during the 84th General Meeting of the International Olympic Committee in 1981, and held a successful sports event seven years later through committed participation of its residents.
In 1994, Seoul City ran various commemorative events, which included burying a time capsule due to be opened in 400 years and inaugurating Citizen Day on October 28, to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the relocation of the Korean capital to Seoul.
The city again stole the limelight worldwide in June 2002, when it jointly hosted the World Cup finals best characterized by the national squad’s miraculous advancement to the semifinals and a nationwide cheering campaign of the “red devils”. The tremendous red-clad crowds which gathered at Seoul Plaza to root for the South Korean team impressed the whole world with their pure enthusiasm and passion, which they radiated for the country they represented.
In 2007, Seoul was named the “World Design Capital 2010” by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. With this designation the city expects to leap into a position of global design leadership; becoming a cultural center in the process and going even further to play a pivotal role in designing the country, the whole world and its future as well.