|— Special City —|
|Seoul Special City|
Clockwise from top left: N Seoul Tower, Banpo Bridge over Han River, Namdaemun, Gangnam, 63 Building and Samsung Tower Palace
Map of South Korea with Seoul highlighted
|Region||Seoul National Capital Area|
|- Type||Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|- Mayor||Oh Se-hoon|
|- Special City||605.25 km2 (233.7 sq mi)|
|- Special City||10,421,782|
|- Density||17,219/km2 (44,597/sq mi)|
|- Demonym||Seoulite,서울시민(Seoul Shee-Min)|
Seoul (Korean pronunciation: [sʌ.ul] ( listen)), officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest city of Republic of Korea. With a population of over 10 million, it is one of the world's largest cities. The Seoul National Capital Area, which includes the Incheon metropolis and most of Gyeonggi province, has 24.5 million inhabitants, and is the world's second largest metropolitan area. 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 is located on the Han River in the center of the Korean Peninsula, and historically was settled in 18 B.C. when Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, established its capital in what is now south-east Seoul. The city then became the capital of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire. As the center of Korean history over the past millennia, 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.
Seoul's influence in business, international trade, politics, technology, education and entertainment all contribute to its role as a prominent global city. It is considered to be an Alpha World City, ranking 9th in the 2008 Global Cities Index. Seoul is the iconic city of the Miracle on the Han River and hosted landmark international events such as the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup and will be the host city of the November 2010 G-20 Summit. It is one of the world's top ten financial and commercial centers, home to some of the world's largest conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia. Seoul was Asia's most expensive city to live in 2007, and the third most expensive city worldwide. In 2008, Seoul was named the world's sixth most economically powerful city by Forbes.com, ahead of Paris and Los Angeles.
Seoul is the 2010 World Design Capital and has one of the world's most technologically advanced infrastructures. Ranked first on the Digital Opportunity Index, its Digital Media City is the world's first complex for high-tech technologies and a test-bed for futuristic IT and multimedia applications. Seoul is the world's first city to feature DMB, a digital mobile TV technology and WiBro, a wireless high-speed mobile internet service, as well as the world's fastest, most penetrated 100Mbps fibre-optic broadband network, which is being upgraded to 1Gbps by 2012. Seoul Station houses the 350 km/h KTX bullet train and the Seoul Subway is the third largest in the world, with over 2 billion passengers every year. Seoul is connected via AREX to Incheon International Airport, which has been rated as the world's best airport since 2005.
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 occupation era). Its current name originated from the Korean word meaning "capital city," which is believed to be derived from Seorabeol (서라벌; 徐羅伐), which originally referred to Gyeongju, the capital of Silla.
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.
The history of Seoul can be traced back as far as 18 BC, when it was established as a settlement in Baekje, Wirye-seong. It's believed that the Wirye-seong site is in the boundaries of modern day Seoul and Present Pungnap Toseong or Mongchon Toseong remains believed as the site. It has thereafter been the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul as a capital city of South Korea has a history of more 610 years since 1394, the year it was designated as the capital city of Joseon Dynasty. 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. The city was almost entirely destroyed in the Korean War, but a series of the Korean government's economic development programs helped rebuild the city very rapidly. In the 1990s, some important historical buildings were restored, including Gyeongbokgung, one of the most royal and powerful palaces and the ruler's dwelling of the Joseon dynasty.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Seoul is in the northwest of South Korea. Seoul proper comprises 605.39 km², 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.
In common with the rest of South Korea, Seoul has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), despite the fact that the country is surrounded on three sides by water. Summers are generally hot and humid, with East Asian monsoon taking place from June until July. August, the hottest month, has an average temperature of 22°C to 30°C (72 °F to 86 °F) with higher temperatures possible. Winters are often relatively cold with an average January temperature of -7°C to 1°C (19 °F to 33 °F) and are generally much drier than summers, with an average of 28 days of snow annually.
|Average high °C (°F)||1.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||-2.3
|Average low °C (°F)||-6.1
|Precipitation mm (inches)||21.6
|Source:  2009-09-16|
Seoul is divided into 25 gu (구; 區) (district). 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; 洞) 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. Dong are also sub-divided into 13,787 tong (통; 統), which are further divided into 102,796 ban in total.
Nearly all of Seoul's residents are Korean, with some small Chinese and Japanese minorities. A rapidly growing population of international residents now represent about 2% of the total population. The city’s population surpassed 10,421,000 at the end of 2007, with the number of foreigners at 229,000, constituting 2.2 percent of the population.
As the headquarters for Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia and SK, Seoul has become a major business hub in Asia. Although it accounts for only 0.6 percent of South Korea's land area, Seoul generates 21 percent of the country's entire GDP.
As a major business and financial center, Seoul ranks sixth in the world in the number of transnational companies headquartered there. Many international banks have branches in Seoul, including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and HSBC. One of the largest exchange banks, the Korea Exchange Bank, is also headquartered in Seoul.
Since Seoul is the center of commerce in South Korea, there are many notable shopping areas. The largest market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market, is located in Seoul. Myeongdong is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul which contains some of the city's top stores and fashion boutiques. It has mid to high priced retail stores and international brand outlets. Nearby is the Namdaemun Market named after the Namdaemun Gate, which is the oldest continually running and the largest retail 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 is another notable shopping district in the city lined with boutiques and stores, catering mainly to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city. The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul and has popular modern shopping spots such as the fashionable and upscale Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong areas and the COEX Mall. As for wholesale markets, there are Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, Garak Market and many others. Yongsan Electronics Market is the largest electronics market in Asia. Gasan Digital Complex also has an extensive variety of electronic products.
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 by concrete, but was recently restored through an urban revival project. 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.
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 fire, 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.
Major modern landmarks in Seoul include the Korea Finance Building, N Seoul Tower, the World Trade Center, the 63 Building and the six-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 large 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.
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.
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 Jogyeo 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 was the first Catholic church established in Korea. It is a symbol of Christianity in Korea as well as political dissidents in the late-20th century.
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 6km 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 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.
|Top tier||K-League||FC Seoul||Seoul World Cup Stadium, North Seoul|
|2nd tier||National League||N/A||N/A|
|3rd tier||K3 League||Seoul United||Jamsil Olympic Stadium, South Seoul|
|Seoul FC Martyrs||Gangbuk-gu Public Stadium, North Seoul|
|Top tier||WK-League||Seoul City Women's FC||To be determined|
Seoul's professional volleyball club, Seoul Woori Capital Dream Six, debuted in the 2009-2010 season.
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 eight major subway lines stretching for more than 250 kilometers, with two additional lines planned.
Seoul has more than three million registered vehicles and suffers from widespread traffic congestion.
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.
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 and Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation.
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:
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 and Singapore, a major transportation center for East Asia. The 2005 AETRA passenger survey, jointly administered by the IATA and Airports Council International, voted it the best airport in the world. It was named by Skytrax as the world's 5th best airport for 2006.
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.
There are a large number of universities in Seoul, including the majority of the South Korea's most prestigious universities. Most high school students in Korea hope to go to universities in Seoul. The top three universities are Seoul National University (SNU), Yonsei University, and Korea University. High school senior students take the test called Soo-neung, (similar to the United States' SAT) at the end of their senior year. If they fail the test, they have to wait another year before trying again.
Korean citizens have the right to education up to the high school level. Students spend six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and three years in high school. Students have to wear school uniforms every day and many schools have restrictions on hair length, style, colour etc. Some middle schools and high schools are sex-segregated.
|Capital of Baekje
18 BC–475 AD
|Capital of Korea
|Capital of South Korea
With over 10 million people, a figure that doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and the unquestioned economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures, it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.
Founded in the 14th century, Seoul was the capital of Korea before its occupation by the Japanese and subsequent division following World War II. Since 1948, Seoul has been the capital of South Korea. Occupied twice during the Korean War by Communist forces, the city was extensively rebuilt and today is one of Asia's modern metropolises.
Seoul suffers from a partly unwarranted reputation for pollution and traffic jams. These days, strict emissions laws have brought the pollution under control and, while traffic jams do still snarl up Seoul's streets at rush hour, the extensive subway network means that the traveler can easily shortcut through it almost all of the time. With beautiful palaces, great food and a hopping nightlife, Seoul is a frenetic way to experience the Asia of old and new.
Seoul is a relatively well organized city covering over 600 km² with a population of around 10.5 million. The new modern city built on a shining history. The city is located in the north-western portion of South Korea approximately 40 km east of the Yellow Sea and 60 km south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Seoul is roughly bisected by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city.
Administratively, Seoul is divided into 25 districts (구 gu), each with an area and population comparable to a small city. The districts are then further subdivided into 522 sub-districts (동 dong). For travelers, however, it may be easier to divide the city into the following areas:
The best way to get from the airport to Seoul is by bus. Limousine buses (₩14000 to/from city for one way, ₩6500 to/from Gimpo Airport (domestic flight)) travel directly to major areas and big hotels in Seoul, while public buses (₩8000-9000) will take you to major transit hubs. If you're visiting for the first time it's recommended to take the limousine bus. For either bus type, consult the big maps or staff to figure out which route best suits your needs; you can then find the shuttles outside 1st floor arrivals (if possible get this information from your hotel before arriving). Or simply, walk out and ask the many ticket sellers (they are wearing vests) which bus goes to your hotel because if it's a popular one or in a popular area, they'll surely know which you'll need. It's best to buy tickets at any of the the ticket gates near the bus arrival area but you can also pay the fare using won or a T-Money card if you have one. The limousine bus drivers are extremely friendly but don't count on them knowing too much English. There are maps inside the buses letting passengers know which stops are upcoming and these are also announced in Korean and English. Pressing any of the red buttons inside signals to the driver you want off at the next stop.
The A'REX  train link connects the airport to Gimpo Airport, with express and commuter services (both ₩3100) running every 12 minutes for a trip time of 28-35 minutes, making this both faster and cheaper than the bus if transiting between the airports. From Gimpo Airport, transferring to subway lines 5 or 9 will take you into various parts of the city. The rest of the link to Seoul Station is scheduled to be ready in December 2010. However, if you have a lot of luggage and prefer not to transfer several times, the airport limousine bus is your best option.
If you have a late flight and plan on getting into Seoul via bus, make sure you get out to the curb as soon as you can. The last buses run shortly after the last flights land. If you miss your bus, you'll be stuck paying for a taxi, as the trains will be done running too.
A taxi direct to Seoul will run around ₩50000/70000 regular/deluxe. Black deluxe taxis (모범 택시) and some regular taxis accept credit cards, but most regular taxis (일반 택시) do not. Ask the driver before you get on if you can pay by credit card. You are expected to pay any road tolls on top of the meter fare. Having your destination written down in Korean will be very helpful.
Beware of taxi drivers trying to pick you up from inside the terminal and even the bus stop. As both buses and taxis are subject to traffic, allow extra time for rush hour delays; one possible shortcut is to take the subway to Gimpo and transfer to the subway there (see below).
The more centrally located but older Gimpo Airport  (김포국제공항, GMP) caters only to the shuttle services to Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka-Kansai and Shanghai-Hongqiao, as well as domestic flights within South Korea.
Gimpo Airport is easily reached on subway lines 5 and 9, as well as the A'REX rail link to Incheon Airport. Line 5 requires about 50 minutes just to get downtown, while Line 9 offers express trains (every 20 min) that skip most stops and can take you clear across the line in 30 minutes, making it a better choice for most visitors. Both lines cost ₩1400, while a taxi to central Seoul will run around ₩30,000.
Seoul is the northern terminus of the KTX high-speed line. There are two KTX stations within city limits:
Nearly all ordinary (non-KTX) services also use one or both of the above terminals, but services east to Chuncheon and southeast to Gyeongju via Danyang use Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역), to the east of the city on line 1.
Every weekend approximately 2 million Seoulites leave the city, which goes a long way to explaining why the city has no less than five major intercity bus terminals.
There are ferry services to various points in China from the neighboring port city of Incheon. Currently no services run from Japan directly to Seoul; many Koreans take the coach or KTX train to Busan, where several ferry and hydrofoil options are available.
No matter where in Korea you start your journey, there will be at least one tolled expressways (Gosok Doro) and national highways (Gook Do) that lead to Seoul; the most important one is the Gyeongbu Expressway, linking Seoul with Busan.
Traffic jams are all too common in Seoul, so be careful on the streets and head underground when possible. Street and subway signage is usually written in English as well as Korean.
In Seoul, you can visit most places by using the subway. There are currently nine lines (11 if you count the Bundang Line and Incheon Line), all numbered and distinguished by different colors. All signs in the subway system are in Korean (both hangeul and if applicable, hanja) and English. The signs leading to the platform for a particular direction of travel on a given subway line typically list the names of a number of stations in that direction. Stations each have a 3 digit number, however Koreans don't really make use of these numbers and they're not on most subway maps, so don't rely on them. A subway map including Line 9 (opened in early 2009) can be found here:.
Subway fares are based on the distance traveled, but the shortest ride costs ₩1000 when using a magnetic ticket. Small magnetic stripe tickets are available for single trip or multiple trips. Tickets can be purchased from ticket counters or vending machines. All the vending machines accept coins, but only a few accept bills. Be sure to have enough coins or ₩1000 notes as if your fare isn't large enough, trying to purchase tickets with say a ₩10000 may be rejected by the machine. If there's no manned ticket office, there's usually a bill exchanger lurking nearby. Hang onto your ticket until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to get out. Also, try to buy round-trip tickets whenever possible (no discount but it'll save time from having to wait in line, especially during rush hour). There are 3 types of ticket machinese - the oldest ones dispense the magnetic paper tickets and simply have buttons for the different fare levels and a nearby route map showing the fares to each station - press the corresponding fare button once for one ticket, twice for 2 tickets etc. The newer touch-screen machines issue a credit-card sized ticket with an embedded microchip and have instructions in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Choose your destination from a list of stations and pay the fare plus a W500 ticket deposit, and simply tap the card on the turnstile's scanners to enter and exit the platform area. When exiting, a blue deposit refund machine will be lurking near the turnstiles - insert your used tickets to get your W500 back. The touch-screen ticket machinese on KoRail Line 1 (to Incheon) are similar to the other touch-screen machines, however they do not currently have instructions in English and unless you can read Hangeul it's easier to go to the ticket counter.
If planning on using the Metro extensively or staying for more than a few weeks, consider purchasing a T-money stored value contactless smart card. You can buy this card at most subway stations and many newspaper kiosks near subway entrances, as well as convenience stores. The card itself costs ₩2500 and cash can be charged onto the card as often as you like. When entering and leaving a subway turnstile, place the card on the reader (leaving it inside your purse or wallet is fine) and it will deduct the appropriate fare from the card. Using this card will allow you to save ₩100 on all transfers (there are common with Seoul's extensive subway system) and you can get all but ₩500 back if you have unused credit. Typically for most travelers staying less than 2 weeks in Seoul, purchasing this card may not be cheaper but other factors should be considered: it can also be used for taxi fares, buses, storage lockers, etc. and saves the hassle from figuring out how much you need to pay or waiting in line to buy a single-use ticket. The subway is not operated 24 hours, so you may be stranded late at night.
Seoul also has an extensive bus service. There are four different kinds of buses: yellow, green, blue, and red. Yellow buses have a short circuit usually around tourist areas. Green buses travel around neighborhoods and connect with the subway. Blue buses go across town, while red buses are intercity buses. Buses will only stop at designated bus stops and will not wait for indecisive travelers.
Adult fare is as follows:
Cash - ₩1000
T-Money Card - ₩900
Note that by using a T-Money card, you can transfer between the bus and the subway for free up to 30 minutes after your last scan. If paying cash, insert your fare (exact change only) into the farebox next to the driver.
The city of Seoul provides an interactive bus map at the following site: Seoul Public Transportation System Guide .
There are four kinds of taxis in Seoul: regular taxi, deluxe taxi, international taxi and call taxi. Deluxe taxis are colored black with a yellow sign, and are more expensive than regular taxis but provide better and more comfortable service. Regular taxis are silver. For the most part, regular taxi cabs have leather interiors and the drivers are nice--so for many, "regular" in Seoul might be "delux" in their hometown! It's easy to hail a taxi any time of the day or night along any relatively major Seoul street.
You can call a deluxe taxi wherever you are by calling 3431-5100. Sometimes you can find a visitor's guide taxi which is a kind of deluxe taxi, the drivers of which know English and Japanese and can guide you around Seoul city.
The basic fare for regular taxis is ₩2400 (₩2880 at night), with additional fare of ₩100 applied according to time and distance.(Basic fare is up to 2km, additional fare is ₩100 per 144m.) In deluxe taxis, the basic fare is ₩4500 and the additional fare increases in increments of ₩200. (₩4500 basic fare up to 3km, additionally ₩200 per 164m.) International taxi drivers speak at least one foreign language (generally English) fluently. International taxis use the same basic fare as regular taxis, plus an additional 20%.
If there is more than one passenger, and you are traveling only a short distance (e.g., 1-2 Metro stops) it is usually cheaper to catch a taxi than to take a bus or subway.
In general, English speaking ability is poor among taxi drivers and many would not know more than the names of the most popular tourist attractions, so it would be wise to have your destination written in Korean to show to the taxi driver. It is also wise to get your hotel's business card in case you get lost. Some may even reject looking at a map so whenever possible, have the location written in Korean. All taxis advertise a free interpretation service that can be called if you need help. The phone number for the interpretation is on the window sticker of the back seats. Taxi's that have an "On Base Authorized" sticker on the side, or a green sticker on their front bumper, are capable of entering US Military bases in Seoul. These drivers are required to speak better English as part of their contract, and therefore may be easier for any English speaking tourists.
As of 2009, most taxis will accept credit cards and T-money cards. Those that do will have a V-shaped orange card sign on the roof of the taxi by the front passenger seat window. However, drivers generally prefer that you pay cash, especially for short rides.
You can also ask for your receipt. Say "Young-soo-jeong"(영수증), which is receipt in Korean.
Car rental is very unappealing in Seoul, as drivers are reckless and the streets are plagued with seemingly perpetual traffic jams. In addition, parking spaces are hard, if not close to impossible to find, especially during peak hours. Therefore, unless you are planning to head out of the city, it is not advisable to rent a car and you are better off relying on public transport instead.
As elsewhere in Korea, a grasp of basic Korean will be helpful.
As the ancient seat of Korea's royalty, there are no fewer than 5 major palaces in Seoul, and some are definitely worth a visit.
Saunas generally take the form of public baths in Korea, and are a popular form of relaxation. Services such as hair cuts and shoe cleaning are generally available. Some saunas also include sleeping areas for overnight stay.
Korea's cuisine is known the world over for being healthy and spicy. Learning how to make Korean dishes such as kimchi and bulgogi can be messy, but a lot of fun. Fortunately, there are several cooking institutes throughout Seoul catering to foreign tourists.
Korean ceramics are known around the world for their simple beauty unique designs. Visitors can learn how to make pottery at the National Museum of Korea and the pottery villages just outside of Seoul in Incheon and Yeoju.
Taekwondo, Korea's most popular martial art!
There is an immense demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction in Seoul. See the main South Korea article for details.
Fashion shopping in Seoul isn't a mere industry, it's an art form.
Myeongdong is probably the largest and best-known area; it is definitely the most tourist-friendly fashion area. In the spring and summer, fashion models/sidewalk promoters can be seen strolling the streets of Myeongdong promoting various cosmetics, stores or other fashion-related products. Many regular people also tend to catwalk their newest outfit on these streets. Rows of stores are available to look for that perfect accessory, and most of Korea's major brands can be found here: mVIO, Caspi Conus, WhoAU California, AHM, So.Basic, Noxon, Basic House, UGIZ, 1492, nipper, hang ten, A6, Bean Pole, Jambangee, Giordano as well as a few international brands such as Landrover, Adidas, Gap, Zara, Koolhaas, Uniqlo, Anna Sui, and Forever 21.
Apgujeong (압구정), widely known as "The Beverly Hills of Seoul" is the land of luxury, brand name goods. International brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada sit alongside Korean designer brands.
Near the Cheongdam Intersection lies the heart of the Korean shoe scene. Cutting edge shoe shops include Sue Comma Bonnie, Hyaang, Heels and Namuhana.
Trends often begin in University areas like Hongdae. Hongik University boasts Korea's most famous art school, thus fashion in this area is often influenced by the students' artistic sensibilities. The shops in this area feature funky, punky, boho, and vintage style. Ewha Women's University also has a big shopping area in front of it’s main gate, as do many of the Women's colleges. Many trends also originate here. There are even seamstresses who can help you make your own designs come to life.
Duty free shops: You can use won, United States dollars, or Japanese yen. There are clerks who can speak Japanese in nearly every shop. Also the following credit cards are accepted: American Express , JCB, Mastercard, or Visa.
There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.
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Much of Korean social life revolves around food and the city is packed with restaurants, so it would take a determined man to starve to death in Seoul. This fate may still befall you if you insist on English menus and meals consisting only of easily identifiable, familiar ingredients, so see South Korea#Eat for a quick Korean menu reader. An alternative is to just point and eat, your hosts generally will accommodate. If you look in the right places, a good meal (lunch or dinner) including side dishes can cost 5,000 won or less (try basements of large department stores).
In addition to Korean food, Japanese restaurants in Seoul tend to be excellent, featuring excellent sushi and sashimi. Chinese restaurants exist, but are typically adapted to suit local preferences. There are a few Italian restaurants; these are generally excellent, with chefs trained in Italy, although flavors tend to be more or less Koreanized, with sugar in the garlic bread and meatballs.
Another interesting food trend in Seoul are the bakeries found all over the city. Common big chains.
All-American diner at Itaewon could be a good choice for who tired of Koreanized fusion.
Keep an eye out for restaurants with signs that have either a pig/cow or what looks like a plate of uncooked bacon. These tend to be galbi restaurants, which is the korean barbecue. Fromthese you can order Samgupsal (pork) or galbi(beef) which is cooked on the table in front of you. A meal and a beer will usually come to about $10
Seoul has plenty of budget places to eat. Everything from convenience store junk food and noodles to street stall food and lots of 24 hour Korean fast food restaurants. The 24-hour restaurants are great because they've usually got a wide variety of foods. Including: mandu, odeng, dokbokki, naengmyeon, udon and ramyeon. Prices do vary from about ₩2000-9000 at these restaurants. The larger department stores in the city have basement food courts that offer excellent food (not recommended if you care about atmosphere).
Seoul features a mind-bogglingly large array of nightspots catering to every taste and budget.
Itaewon is Seoul's international district, housing a variety of Western-styled venues to eat, drink and be merry. Being a place where many foreigners congregate, it remains somewhat of a niche nightlife area for Koreans who are interested in a more international scene. A number of notable bars and clubs spot the area, both on the main street and in the alleys off it. Recently becoming gentrified as more upscale restaurants and chains move in. The US army has decided to move the nearby army base outside of Seoul within the next few years so expect regular changes to the area..
Many bars in Itaewon celebrate Thursdays as Ladies' Night which often means that ladies drink free before 12am. Finally, there are a few gay bars, located two alleys east of the main street. There you can find a club and a few bars near one another.
Due to its proximity to the nearby United States Army Garrison Yongsan, a large number of American military are found here in the evenings and weekends. It is not unusual to see uniformed military wearing CP (Courtesy Patrol) or MP (Military Police) armbands enforcing the curfew.
For some good House/Trance music, try some places like:
Sinchon (신촌), home to universities including the Ehwa Women's University (이화여대 Ihwayeodae) this is a great place to soak up a more Korean environment. (Sinchon is not to be confused with Sincheon, the only difference being the sound of the last o!) Sinchon is set up like many Korean 'play' areas, whereby bars, clubs, restaurants, singing rooms, and sometimes even motels, are structured in a grid-like fashion. The only way to familiarize yourself with the area is to stroll the alleys and discover all the different places. Korean bars tend to be rather antisocial compared with their Western counterparts, with people sitting at tables with friends and not tending to mix. There are a number of Western style bars in the area:
Hongdae (홍대), short for Hong'ik University, is the premier club area in Seoul by far. Located around Hongik University, clubs and bars are strewn everywhere around the place. The clubs aren't near the station, but aren't hard to find. The most popular clubs are:
Psychedelic Miroir, 405-5 Seokyo-dong, Mapo-gu (From exit 4 at Hapjeong station walk in the direction that the traffic flows, when you reach the fake airplane, Follow this main road until you see the Family Mart on the corner.), ☎ 011-218-7043. Psytrance every Friday and Saturday, 60's and 70's rock during the week. This is a very small but explosive little bar, on weekends they have Psytrance and Dubstep music from about 10 at night, although you are able to go earlier to chat with Poong-shin, or Teng, who are the owners and DJ's. They are not expensive, with no entrance fee charged, and create a atmosphere unique to Miroir with blacklights and UV-decor to keep you entertained. Weekdays 60's and 70's rock can be heard, in the psychedelic tradition that is being kept alive by this little gem. Both Teng and Poong-shin english, but be warned, this is Korea so speak slowe edit
Some other popular clubs include
On a Friday or Saturday expect all of these to be packed tight. Last Friday of every month is Club Day where ₩15,000 will get you into those clubs who are part of the "Club Day". Expect a packed crowd. There are a number of bars popular with foreigners here too:
The place is huge and you could party for a whole week in all the bars and clubs. The best way to see it is to stroll around and find something you like. An interesting note: The entire club district of Hongdae is officially off-limits to American military personnel, US Federal employees and their dependents. However, it is not unusual to see crew-cuts here on the weekends. In warmer months, don't pass up the closet-sized B-Dan on Hongdae's main strip, which offers up take-out draft beer by the plastic up.
Apgujeong (압구정) is the upmarket area of Seoul. Walk around the streets and you'll see teenagers valet parking their new Benz or Audi, strutting their new designer threads and looking generally, well, rich. That said, a lot of people who party in Apgujeong aren't necessarily rich and actually live far away. There are some clubs and bars here, but it is a rather subdued venue for partying. Nightlife here consists mainly of designer bars and restaurants. Places where it isn't possible to valet haven't turned out to be great hits traditionally. That said, there are a few small clubs in the area. Expect English to be more commonly spoken in this area too, due often to overseas education or excessive private tutoring. However with it comes a certain desensitization to foreigners, so don't expect people to stare or approach you as much as they would in other parts of Seoul. Consider Apgujeong as a great place to hang out, not rock out. If you wanted to impress a date for example, this would be a great place to go to. The backstreets of Apgujeong tend to sprout and lose new clubs seemingly at random throughout the year, so exploring off the main drag from time to time can sometimes yield a new "hot club of the month."
Gangnam (강남) is probably the second most popular club area. Also set up in a grid structure, clubs, bars, restaurants and various other entertainment venues decorate this upmarket location. While not as upmarket as Apgujeong, it definitely is busy and lively. If Apgujeong is the place for rich kids to hang out and look cool, Kangnam is the place for those rich kids to party and look sexy. The station is central and a ton of buses run through the heart of the entertainment area, so finding your way there is extremely easy.
Note: Some bar districts, such as Hongdae, are off-limits to American military personnel, US Federal employees, contractors and their dependents. A nationwide curfew (imposed and enforced by the US Military as part of the Status of Forces Agreement) is also in effect for persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, American military personnel, US Federal employees, contractors and their dependents: midnight Su-Th and 3AM F-Sa.
Seoul's unofficial backpacker districts are 3 parts: Jongro, Hongdae and the other areas. Most of them are in north of the city center. You can reach every tour attraction within 20 minutes on public transportation from anywhere you stay above.
also near Jongro, local backpacker district is located in Sinseol-dong(subway line 1), with walking distance of Dongdaemun Market. You can also reach the area directly from Incheon Airport with certain limousine buses or city bus 6002 to Sinseol-dong stop (₩9000, 90 minutes).
Love hotels are also a great option. They cost from ₩25,000-80,000 a night, more on Saturday nights and holidays. They are usually in pretty good condition and they sometimes have a PC in the room. Love hotels are mainly visited by couples who want some private places during day or night, most of the love hotels (especially those in Gangnam district) are exceptionally clean and usually have widescreen TVs, PCs and so forth. Don't let the name fool you...some of these are the best bets for budget travelers! Be aware that some love hotels discourage stays of more than one night. Main love hotel districts in Seoul include Teheran Street near Yeoksam station in the Gangnam district, Nambu Terminal in Seocho-dong, Bangi station in Jamsil and the area near the Nakwon market in Jongno.
Alternatively, try a jjimjilbang for between ₩4,000-12,000 per night. You don't get a room of your own, but you can store your luggage into one of the small lockers and you can live quite cheaply for a long time, sleeping in the public sleeping rooms and enjoying the hot-tub and steam room facilities (sometimes a gym is available, also movies and TV shows often play until 11pm or so). To find a Jjimjilbang keep an eye out for the distinctive symbol of a plate with rays of heat rising from it. You may have to investigate as smaller hotels often use the same symbol as well.
Seoul's top-end hotels are impressive, but pricey.
Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) are ubiquitous in Seoul, and usually cost just 1,000 won (about 1 USD) per hour.
Console gaming (Xbox, PS2) is widely available, and for those with proficiency in Korean language, you might also be able to enjoy a round of online gaming; the fantasy MMORPG Lineage was created in Korea and a slew of MMORPG titles not available anywhere else can be found here.
Useful contact numbers are as follows:
Seoul is a remarkably safe city given its size, comparable in safety to Hong Kong or Tokyo. Pickpocketing is not very common and violent crime is minimal if almost unheard of. With that said, young club-going westerners should be aware of US military police and angry Korean men.
US military personnel are supposed to be on base by around 1am (3am on weekends), but some will stay out late. To deal with this, US Military Police will patrol the streets of Seoul, accompanied by Korean police, and check the IDs of any male who could appear to fit the profile of an American soldier. By law, all foreigners must carry their passport or Korean alien registration card at all times, and Korean police are allowed to check them at any time. (A driver's license is not good enough, because it doesn't show if you're in Korea as a soldier or not.) Failure to identify yourself allows the police to detain you and take you to a police station or US military base to "run your numbers", although they may agree to escort you to your hotel instead. Burden of proof in this situation is on the accused, not the accuser.
Once you have proven that you are not US military, they have to release you. That's nothing to worry about. However, they will release you by the base/station, not where they found you. You could end up with an expensive taxi ride and your night ruined, as it could take hours for this to be completed. This doesn't happen often, but happens enough. Americans saying "I am an English teacher" or anyone saying "I am Canadian", be warned, this one doesn't work very well (Canadians get snagged probably more than Americans). If MPs and Korean police approach you and you don't have ID, your best bet is to speak some other European language and feign ignorance.
Most Korean men at some time or another must serve in the military. Add, at times, some Confucian machismo and a military background (some Koreans out partying are still active in the military), a dislike of multi-racial relationships (this is an old value and is disappearing with many of the youth, but many Korean men aren't too happy to see "their" pretty Korean women with Western men), alcohol, and the animosity between Korean soldiers and American soldiers, and you've got an explosive mix that occasionally turns violent.
Again, this isn't everyone, but it is definitely real. Koreans, like most North Asians, have a strong sense of face. For the most part, stear clear of trouble and it won't find you. Basically, keep an eye out for drunks of any kind (just like you would in your home country), avoid offending anybody or getting into any kind of fight, and you'll be absolutely fine. Whenever there is trouble, it doesn't last long, but it can get very ugly.
These two issues aren't everywhere and don't happen often, but they are real, so pay attention just as you would in any major city.
Medical bills can be expensive,but not too, so make sure you have valid travel insurance. Some people with sensitive stomachs should use caution when dining in Korea as some of the local cuisine is heavily spiced with copious amounts of pepper and garlic.
Westerners should take note that Korea (and North Asia, for that matter) is a Confucian culture. Face and honor are important to men while women are often more conservative (on average) than their western counterparts. The under-30 generation is definitely more relaxed than the older generation, but realize that though Korea is modern, it is most definitely not Western. However, given Korea's history and a nearly 60 year military presence of a foreign power on Korean soil (soil which has been divided in half, mind you), anti-foreign and anti-Western sentiment pops up (rarely-not often) everywhere as would be natural given the circumstances. Be respectful of the locals and try not to be loud and make a spectacle of yourself. Korea can be a conservative and traditional country in many ways but do not mistake this for racism. If anything, they may think you a fool for being obnoxious.
Pharmacies are everywhere. While most are labeled only in Korean, the character is easy to recognize, 약. Most pharmacists speak good English.
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SEOUL (Han - yang), the capital of Korea (Chosen), situated in 37° 34' N. and 127° 6' E., at an altitude of 120 ft., 25 M. from Chemulpo, its seaport, and 4 from Mapu, its river-port. Pop. about 200,000. It lies in a basin among granite hills, nowhere exceeding 2627 ft., remarkable for their denudation and their abrupt black crags and pinnacles. A well-built, crenelated stone wall from 20 to 30 ft. high, about 11 m. in circuit, and pierced by 8 gateways with double-roofed gate towers, surrounds it. The native houses are built of stone or mud, deeply eaved, and either tiled or thatched. Above these rise the towers of the Roman Catholic cathedral, the high curved roofs of the royal audience halls, the palace gateways, and the showy buildings of the Russian and French legations. The antiquities are the Bell Tower, with a huge bronze bell dated 1468, a marble pagoda elaborately carved, but not of Korean workmanship, seven centuries old, and a "Turtle-Stone" of about the same date.
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Seoul (in the Korean language, 서울) is the biggest city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and its capital. Its official name is Seoul Special City (서울특별시). It is located in the middle of Korea. It has a population of 10 millions which is about 1/5 of the Korean population and 1/7 of Korea peninsula, and covers an area of 610 km² that is only 0.6% of South Korea. It is the 6th most populated city in the world, and 7th most crowded. Seoul is the center of politics, economy, culture, transportation, and education for South Korea.
Seoul is located in the middle of the Korean Peninsula. Han River(한강) is a major river in South Korea and the fourth longest river on the Korean peninsula. This river across Central of Seoul.
Seoul is thought to be the capital of Baekje Kingdom(백제) from 18 BC. At that time, the name of the city was Wiryeseong (위례성). Wiryeseong is thought to be located Songpa-gu, Seoul. During Silla Period(신라시대), Hanju(한주) was name of Seoul. During Goryeo Period(고려시대), the name of Seoul was Namgyeong (남경) which means "the south capital". There was a palace of Goryeo Dynasty. Hanyang was name of Seoul in late Goryeo Period. After establishment of Joseon Dynasty, the name of Seoul was Hanseong (한성) and Hanseong became the capital of Joseon Kingdom. From 1910 to 1945 when Korea was under Japanese rule, the name of Seoul was Gyeongseong (경성). Since South Korea was started in 1948, it has been the capital, except for a short time during the Korean War. Seoul became a special city in 1948. April 19th Revolution (4.19혁명) and June Revolution (6월민주항쟁) was took place in Seoul.
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