From New World Encyclopedia


Seoul from the sky.jpg

Korean name
Revised Romanization Seoul Teukbyeolsi
McCune-Reischauer Sŏul T'ŭkpyŏlsi
Hangul 서울특별시
Hanja 서울特別市
Short name Seoul (Sŏul; 서울)
Population 9,655,918 (2023)[1]

(Metro area 26,037,000)

Area 605.33 km²
Government (Special City, Capital of Republic of Korea)
Administrative divisions 25 wards (Gu)
Region Seoul National Capital Area
Dialect Seoul dialect
Location map
Map of location of Seoul

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, sits on the Han River (Korea) in the country's northwest situated about 30 miles (~50 km) south of the de-militarized zone (DMZ). Seoul, an ancient city, served as the historic capital of the Baekje Dynasty (18 B.C.E. – 660 C.E.) and Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The city became the capital of South Korea in 1394, two years after the establishment of the Joseon Dynasty. Designated the status of a Special City, the national government directly administers Seoul.


Seoul, one of the world's most densely populated major cities, covers an area of only 605 square kilometers, smaller than New York City or Tokyo. Almost one fourth of South Korea's population lives in the Seoul National Capital Area, and nearly one half in the Greater Seoul Area. Seoul serves as the country's political, cultural, and economic center, as well as a center for international business. The city has played a key role in South Korea's economic development and has been referred to as the "Miracle on the Han River."

Seoul has widespread traffic congestion due to the large number of vehicles. In recent years, the metropolitan government has undertaken extensive clean up of the city's air and water pollution, highlighting the revival of Cheonggyecheon, a stream that flows through Seoul city center, as a recent major urban beautification project.


The throne hall in Gyeongbokgung

The history of Seoul traces to 18 B.C.E. as the capital of the Baekje Kingdom. During the Goryeo Dynasty, Seoul had the name Hanseong, picking up the current name during the Joseon Dynasty, designated Seoul. During the colonization period, Japan demolished many historical parts of Seoul. The North Koreans almost entirely destroyed the city during the Korean War, but an aggressive restoration policy in the 1960s and 1970s rebuilt the city rapidly. During the 1990s, the government restored some important historical buildings, including Gyeongbokgung, the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.

Names. The city has been known in the past by the successive names Wiryeseong (위례성; 慰禮城; Baekje), Hanyang (한양; 漢陽) and Hanseong (한성; 漢城; Goryeo and Joseon). Seoul derives from the ancient Korean word Seorabeol or Seobeol, meaning "capital city," referring to Gyeongju, the capital of Silla.

Chinese name. Unlike most place names in Korea, "Seoul" has no corresponding hanja (Chinese characters used in the Korean language), and Chinese-speaking countries have continued to refer to the city by its former name "Hànchéng" (meaning "City on the Han River" Traditional: 漢城; Simplified: 汉城; Korean: "Hanseong"). In January 2005, the Seoul Metropolitan Government requested that the Chinese name of the city change to "Shǒu'ěr" (首爾/首尔; Korean: 수이 Su-i). That represents a close transliteration of Seoul in Mandarin Chinese, where (shǒu) can also mean "first" or "capital."

Chinese communities have gradually adopted that new name. That change, intended for speakers of Chinese only, has no effect on the Korean language name; unlike standard hanja, the government chose the Chinese characters that best represent the Korean pronunciation of a native Korean word.


Seoul sits in northwest South Korea, comprising 605.52km² of area while roughly bisected into northern and southern halves by the Han River. Eight mountains border the city, as well as the more level lands of the Han River plain.

Climate In common with the rest of South Korea, Seoul has a temperate and continental climate, despite water surrounding South Korea on three sides. Summers, generally hot and wet, experience monsoons from June until September. August, the hottest month, has an average temperature of 22 °C to 30 °C (72 °F to 86 °F). Winters, often cold compared to places at a similar latitude, have an average January temperature of -7 °C to 1 °C (19 °F to 33 °F). Generally drier than summers, Seoul averages 28 days of snow each winter.


The beginning of Cheonggyecheon stream.

The old Joseon Dynasty city constitutes the traditional heart of Seoul, now the downtown area with most palaces, government offices, corporate headquarters, hotels, and traditional markets. That area occupies the valley of Cheonggyecheon, a stream that runs from west to east through the valley before emptying into the Han River. For many years the stream had been covered by concrete, until recently restored through an urban revival project. Bukhan Mountain sits to the north of downtown while to the south stands the smaller Namsan.

The old suburbs of Yongsan-gu and Mapo-gu, and the Han River lay further south. The newer and wealthier areas of Gangnam-gu and surrounding neighborhoods lay across the Han River. The World Trade Center of Korea, located in Gangnam-gu, hosts many expositions and conferences. Also in Gangnam-gu, the COEX Mall, a large indoor shopping and entertainment complex, has been built. Bamson, an island in the middle of the Han River near Youido, downstream from Gangnam-gu, serves as the 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. In Songpa-gu, on the south side of the Han River, upstream from Gangnam-gu, the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, and Lotte World have been built. Namhan Mountain and Gwanak Mountain lie south of the sprawling Gangnam area.

Major modern landmarks include the Korea Finance Building, Seoul Tower, the World Trade Center, the six-skyscraper residence Tower Palace (usually designated as residence for the upper-classes), and I-Park Apartments (a luxury apartment located in Gangnam-gu). Those, and high-rise office buildings, like the Seoul Star Tower and Jongro Tower, dominate the city's skyline. Seoul has the largest number of skyscrapers in Asia. Seoul now plans to build a 580-metre business center in Sangam Digital Media City district and planning on an 800-metre Lotte World 2 Tower in Jamsil (pronounced "Jam-shil") district.

Urban and civil planning played a key role in the first designs of Seoul as a capital in the fourteenth century, when Korean society was strictly structured as a classed society. The Royal Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty still remain in Seoul, with the main palace (Gyeongbokgung) currently restored to its original form. Today, eight major subway lines stretching for more than 250 kilometers, with a ninth and tenth line in planning.

Jongno, meaning "Bell Street," the most historically significant street in Seoul, serves as the home to Bosingak, a pavilion containing a large bell. The bell signaled the different times of the day, to signal the opening and closing of the four great gates to the city. Now the bell only rings at midnight on New Year's Eve, when the bell sounds 33 times. In an exception to tradition, the city rang the bell on the day that President Kim Dae-jung took office.

Seoul's most important streetcar line ran along Jongno until replaced by Line 1 of the subway system in the early 1970s. Other notable streets in downtown Seoul include Euljiro (을지로; 乙支路), Teheranno (테헤란路), Sejongno (세종로; 世宗路, Chungmuro (충무로; 忠武路), Yulgongno (율곡로; 栗谷路), and Toegyero (퇴계로; 退溪路).

Administrative divisions

Seoul divides into 25 gu (구; 區) (districts), that sub-divide further into 522 dong (동; 洞), that sub-divide even further into 13,787 tong (통; 統), which divide into 102,796 ban, the smallest division.

Seoul Districts
  • Dobong-gu (도봉구; 道峰區)
  • Dongdaemun-gu (동대문구; 東大門區)
  • Dongjak-gu (동작구; 銅雀區)
  • Eunpyeong-gu (은평구; 恩平區)
  • Gangbuk-gu (강북구; 江北區)
  • Gangdong-gu (강동구; 江東區)
  • Gangnam-gu (강남구; 江南區)
  • Gangseo-gu (강서구; 江西區)
  • Geumcheon-gu (금천구; 衿川區)
  • Guro-gu (구로구; 九老區)
  • Gwanak-gu (관악구; 冠岳區)
  • Gwangjin-gu (광진구; 廣津區)
  • Jongro-gu (종로구; 鍾路區)
  • Jung-gu (중구; 中區)
  • Jungnang-gu (중랑구; 中浪區)
  • Mapo-gu (마포구; 麻浦區)
  • Nowon-gu (노원구; 蘆原區)
  • Seocho-gu (서초구; 瑞草區)
  • Seodaemun-gu (서대문구; 西大門區)
  • Seongbuk-gu (성북구; 城北區)
  • Seongdong-gu (성동구; 城東區)
  • Songpa-gu (송파구; 松坡區)
  • Yangcheon-gu (양천구; 陽川區)
  • Yeongdeungpo-gu (영등포구; 永登浦區)
  • Yongsan-gu (용산구; 龍山區)



Children in Seoul

Nearly all of Seoul's close to ten million residents are Korean, with some small Chinese and Japanese minorities. Today, an estimated 200,000 foreign nationals live in Seoul. Those include people from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America. The crime rate in Seoul is comparatively low. Although about half of the population declare no religious preference, Buddhism and Christianity constitute two major religions in Seoul. Other religions include Shamanism and Confucianism, the latter seen more as a pervasive social philosophy rather than a religion.


World Trade Center in Seoul.

As headquarters for some of the world’s top corporations such as Samsung, LG Group, Hyundai, and Kia Motors, the service sector in Seoul has thrived, bringing development and a healthy economy to the country as a whole. South Korea derives a large portion of its GDP from the service sector, above the average for the upper income nations. Electronics, automobiles, and machinery sit at the top of the export list. That economic development has also helped keep unemployment low. As one of the "Four Asian Tigers," Korea experienced rapid growth in the 1990s. Seoul and South Korea have a thriving economy that helps to make South Korea a major player in the world economy. As the center of the service sector for South Korea, Seoul serves as the hub for economic growth and health of the country ensuring the continuing growth of the nation.


Gyeongbokgung against Bukaksan.
The interior of Injeongjeon in Changdeokgung before renovation.
The royal march at Gyeongbokgung.

Historical structures and museums

The Joseon Dynasty built "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul:

  • Changdeokgung (창덕궁; 昌德宮)
  • Changgyeonggung (창경궁; 昌慶宮)
  • Deoksugung (덕수궁; 德壽宮)
  • Gyeongbokgung (경복궁; 景福宮)
  • Gyeonghuigung (경희궁; 慶熙宮)

This is a relatively minor palace:

  • Unhyeongung (운현궁; 雲峴宮)


  • National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관; 國立中央博物館)
  • National Folk Museum (국립민속박물관; 國立民俗博物館)
  • War Memorial (전쟁기념관; 戰爭紀念館)

Outside the metropolitan area:

  • Samjeondo Monument
  • Namhansanseong (남한산성; 南漢山城)
  • Bukhansanseong (북한산성; 北漢山城)
  • Namsan Park (남산공원; 南山公園)

Temples and shrines

  • Jongmyo (종묘; 宗廟)
  • Dongmyo (동묘; 東廟)
  • Munmyo (문묘; 文廟)
  • Jogyesa (조계사; 曹溪寺)
  • Hwagyesa (화계사; 華溪寺)
  • Bongeunsa (봉은사; 奉恩寺)

Parks and outdoor attractions

The government has made strides to improve air quality, at one time near the top of the international list for dangerous metals. Seoul's metropolitan area accommodates six major parks, including Seoul Forest, opened in mid-2005. The Seoul National Capital Area has a green belt intended to prevent urban sprawl into neighboring Gyeonggi Province. People frequently seek those green areas on the weekend and during vacations.

The Seoul area boasts three amusement parks: Lotte World, Seoul Land, and Everland (located in the nearby city of Yongin). Of those, Lotte World draws the largest crowds. Other recreation centres include the former Olympic and World Cup stadium, the Korea Finance Building, and the City Hall's public lawn.


Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympic Games as well as the 1988 Paralympic Games, serving as well as one of the host cities of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Taekwondo constitutes Korea's national sport, Seoul serving as the location of the Kukkiwon, also known as the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), the world headquarters of Taekwondo.

The city hosts two baseball teams in the KBO: the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins and two basketball teams in the KBL: the Seoul Samsung Thunders and Seoul SK Knights. One professional football club in Seoul, FC Seoul, plays in the K-League. Two K3 League teams have their base in the capital, Seoul United and Eungpyeong Chung-goo FC.

Higher Education

See also: Education in South Korea, List of universities in Seoul
Yonsei University

A large number of universities reside in Seoul. The most prestigious universities in Korea have their campuses in Seoul, including the so-called "SKY" schools: Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University. Just as in the Joseon Dynasty period, when yangban seeking office came to Seoul, students flock to Seoul's colleges. The Korean government has been trying to encourage to students to attend colleges outside Seoul as a way of alleviating the horrific competition to enter the SKY colleges.


Seoul's transportation inaugurated in 1897 during the Joseon Dynasty, when the first streetcar lines linking Seoul and Incheon. Seoul has developed a full array of transportation modes, including airports, high speed trains, an elaborate subway system, and an extensive network of highways and road. Seoul has established plans to become a transportation hub for Asia.


Incheon International Airport.

Two airports serve Seoul. Gimpo International Airport, annexed to Seoul in 1963, constituted the only airport for Seoul from its original construction during the Korean War. United States Army Corps of Engineers built numerous airports built in and around Seoul during and after the Korea War. The most famous, on Yeouido, once served as the country’s gateway to the world.

Upon opening in March 2001, Incheon International Airport on Yeongjong island near Incheon changed the role of Gimpo Airport significantly. Incheon handles almost all international flights and some domestic flights, while Gimpo serves only domestic flights with the exception of flights to Haneda Airport in Tokyo. That has led to a significant drop in the number of flights at Gimpo Airport.

Meanwhile, Incheon International Airport has become, along with Hong Kong and Singapore, a major transportation center for East Asia.

Seoul links to Incheon and Gimpo by highways, Gimpo also joins Seoul by subway (line #5). The Incheon International Airport Railroad, a rail line connecting Incheon Airport to Gimpo Airport opened in March 2007; the opening of a line to Seoul Station in central Seoul has been projected for March 2008 at the earliest. Shuttle buses transfer passengers between Incheon and Gimpo airports.


Seoul Metropolitan Government operates Seoul's bus system, with four primary bus networks available servicing most of the city. Combined with the subway, bus transportation allows a way to by pass the traffic jams that plague Seoul.

Seoul has several intercity/express bus terminals connecting Seoul and cities all around Korea. Major bus terminals are:

  • Seoul Express Bus Terminal in Seocho-gu
  • Central City in Seocho-gu
  • Seoul Nambu Terminal, also in Seocho-gu
  • Dongseoul Bus Terminal in Gwangjin-gu
  • Sangbong Terminal in Jungnang-gu


Subway in Seoul.

Seoul has eight subway lines that interlink every district of the city with one another and with the surrounding area. The majority of the population now uses the public transportation system due to its convenience and low cost. With more than 8 million passengers a day, Seoul has one of the busiest subway systems in the world. Faced with an ever increasingly complex transportation system, Seoul's metropolitan government employs several mathematicians to coordinate the subway, bus, and traffic schedules into one timetable.



Railroad connects Seoul to every major city in Korea. The KTX bullet train links Seoul to most major Korean cities. KTX features an operation speed of more than 300 km/h, making travels between cities extremely convenient for commuters and tourists. Major railroad stations include:

  • Seoul Station, Jung-gu - Gyeongbu line (KTX/Saemaul/Mugunghwa-ho), Gyeongui line (Saemaul/Commuter)
  • Yongsan Station, Yongsan-gu - Honam line (KTX/Saemaul/Mugunghwa), Jeolla/Janghang lines (Saemaul/Mugunghwa)
  • Yeongdeungpo Station, Yeongdeungpo-gu - Gyeongbu/Honam/Janghang lines (Saemaul/Mugunghwa)
  • Cheongnyangni Station, Dongdaemun-gu - Gyeongchun/Jungang/Yeongdong/Taebaek lines (Mugunghwa)

Sister cities

Seoul has many sister cities. The year each relationship was formed is shown in parentheses below.



  1. City Overview: Population Seoul Metropolitan Government. Retrieved November 15, 2023.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Chung, D.-K., and Barry Eichengreen. The Korean economy beyond the crisis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2004. ISBN 9781843766032
  • Pratt, Keith L. Old Seoul. Images of Asia. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 9780195930870
  • Robinson, Martin. Seoul. Footscray, Vic: Lonely Planet, 2006. ISBN 9781740598460
  • Seoul (Korea). The modernization of Seoul and its trials (1876-1910). Seoul through pictures, 1. Seoul: Mayor of Seoul, 2002. OCLC 53907813

External links

All links retrieved November 15, 2023, 2023.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.