History of Seoul, South Korea

Seoul’s history dates back to 18 BCE. However, humans have occupied the area that now constitutes Seoul since the Paleolithic. Seoul has been a great settlement for over 2,000 years. It has been the capital of numerous kingdoms on the Korean Peninsula since it was established.

Baekje and the early prehistoric era

Humans are believed to have lived in the area that is now Seoul on the lower reaches of the Han River during the Paleolithic and archaeological research programs show that people began to lead determined lives beginning in the Neolithic Age. With the introduction of bronze objects around 700 BCE, the settlements gradually began to spread from the river basin to the inland areas.

In 18 BCE, the Baekje kingdom founded its capital city, Wiryeseong, which is now the interior of Seoul. Baekje subsequently developed from a member state of the Mahan confederation into one of the three kingdoms of Korea. There are several remains of city walls in the Seoul area dating from this time. Among them, Pungnap Toseong, a wall of earth in the southeastern part of present-day Seoul, (in Pungnap-dong, just near the Jamsil area) that is widely regarded as the main Wiryeseong site. However, another earthen wall, Toseong Mongchon, nearby, also dates from the early Baekje era.

All of these sites are in the south of the Han River, and do not belong to the Seoul Historic District (centered on what is now Jongno), which is well in the north of the river.

Era of the Three Kingdoms

As the three kingdoms competed for this strategic region of the Korean Peninsula, control passed from Baekje to Goguryeo in 392 and from Goguryeo to the Silla- Baekje alliance in 551.

Silla soon gained complete control of the city and the peninsula, and during the Unified Silla period, Hanyang was first considered a district of the city, and later the city itself.

It was Goryeo

It was thought that the kingdom that controlled the Han River Valley would also have strategic control of the entire peninsula, as it was a transportation hub. In 1104, King Sukjong of the Goryeo Dynasty built a palace in Seoul, which was then known as Namgyeong or “Capital of the South”. Seoul developed into a large-scale city with political significance during this time.

It was Joseon and the Korean Empire

At the beginning of the Joseon dynasty in 1394, the capital was moved to Seoul, also known as Hanyang and later as Hanseong, where it remained until the fall of the dynasty.

Originally completely surrounded by an imposing circular wall to provide its citizens with safety from wild animals such as the tiger, thieves and attacks. The city has grown beyond the walls and although the walls are gone (except in the mountains north of the downtown area), the gates remain near the central area of Seoul, among which Sungnyemun (commonly known as Namdaemun, or South Gate) and Heunginjimun (commonly known as Dongdaemun, or East Gate), as well as Sukjeongmun (commonly known as Bukdaemun, or North Gate) and four smaller gates which include Changuimun and Hyehwamun. During the Joseon Dynasty, doors opened and closed every day, accompanied by the tolling of large bells.

In the 19th century, after hundreds of years of isolation, Seoul opened its doors to foreigners and began to modernize. Seoul became the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trams, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at once. Much of this was due to trade with the United States. For example, the Seoul Electric Company, Seoul Electric Trolley, and Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company were US-owned companies. In 1904, an American by the name of Angus Hamilton visited the city and said: “The streets of Seoul are magnificent, wide, clean, admirably done and well drained. The narrow, dirty alleys have been widened, the canals have been covered, roads widened Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the tallest, most interesting and cleanest city in the East. ”

Colonial korea

When the Japanese empire annexed Korea, it made Seoul its colonial capital. While under colonial rule (1910 – 1945), the city was called Gyeongseong. Gyeongseong was an urban prefecture like present-day Kyoto or Osaka with two districts: Gyeongseong itself and Yongsan-gu. The Japanese General Government Building was the seat of colonial government during colonial Korea and was torn down in 1995.


After World War II and the liberation of Korea, the city took its current name from Seoul. When the Republic of Korea (South Korea) declared itself as a state, it adopted the city as its capital.

In 1950, the Korean War broke out and Seoul changed hands between North Korean forces and South Korean forces four times, leaving the city largely destroyed at the end of the war. An estimate of the damage indicates that at least 191,000 buildings, 55,000 houses and 1,000 factories were left in ruins. In addition, there was an avalanche of refugees from the north, increasing the population of the city, to about 2.5 million people. More than half of them were left homeless.

After the war, Seoul became the focus of an immense reconstruction and modernization effort. The rapid economic growth achieved during the industrialization of the 1960s and 1970s increased the living standards of residents considerably. The outbreak of tall office and apartment buildings began in the city during the construction boom of the 1980s. Pollution and traffic jams became major issues due to accelerated urbanization in the country and large numbers of people began to move to and around Seoul. Despite a green belt around the city to prevent urban sprawl, the Seoul metropolitan area soon became the third largest in the world in terms of population and one of the busiest.

According to Youremailverifier, Seoul was the host city of the Olympic Games of 1988, as well as one of the venues of the World Cup FIFA 2002.

During the 1990s, the city began to attract many workers from other countries, producing demographic changes. Previously, almost all of Seoul’s residents were from Korea, with the exception of a small Chinese minority. At present, there are an estimated 200,000 foreign nationals living in Seoul. These include workers from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

In addition, there are many language teachers from countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom. As a large business and financial center, Seoul also has many executives and analysts from North America, Europe, and Japan. Seoul is ranked seventh in the world on the Fortune 500 list for the number of multinational companies headquartered there. It is also the second most expensive city, ahead of Tokyo and Hong Kong(ranked 3 and 4, respectively).

Transfer of the capital

The November of August of 2004, the Korean government of the South announced that the capital would be located in the Gongju area from 2007 to relieve pressure on the population in Seoul and government at a safe distance from Korea to the North. Gongju is approximately 120 kilometers south of Seoul. The government estimates that the measure will probably not be completed before 2012. Although part of it is part of the electoral program, this plan has sparked controversy throughout the country. On 21 October as as 2004, the Constitutional Court declared on the basis of customary law that the special law for the transfer of the capital is unconstitutional since relocation is a serious matter that requires a national referendum or revision of the Constitution, thereby ending the dispute.

At the end of 2004, however, the Government of South Korea announced its plans to pass most of the powers of the national state, with the exception of the Executive Branch, to Gongju, thus evading the violation of the Constitutional Court ruling and remaining Seoul as the national capital. Starting in 2011, preliminary construction of new government buildings has started in Gonju area. Naturally, no government body wants to get away from the center of power in Seoul, for which agencies will be forced to move is the subject of intense behind-the-scenes debate.

History of Seoul, South Korea