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History Behind Korea's Famous Cities

History Behind Korea's Famous Cities

If you have ever been to Korea, or know much about the country’s geography, you have most likely heard of Seoul and Busan. These two staple cities are huge tourist attractions and popular places to visit for the locals.

Namdaemun market located near a 14th century gate (Circa Joseon Era during the late 19th century - early 20th century)

Known as the capital city of South Korea, Seoul houses an estimate of 10 million residents and has gone through 2,000 years of recorded history. It is estimated that the city was first established as Wiryeseong, the Capital of Baekje in 18 BC and was located near the Han River in what is considered today’s southeastern Seoul. Wiryeseong, renamed as Hanyang during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), was officially appointed the capital city of Joseon in 1394. Eventually, natives began referring to Hanyang as Seoul. During this era, the city flourished and developed the architectural mapping of modern day Seoul. Since then, Seoul has remained the capital city name except during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) when it was changed to Gyeongseong. After the Korean war, Seoul was reestablished and faced alarming industrialized growth over a short fifty year period.

Park near Banghwa Bridge (Seoul, Korea)

Today when you visit Seoul, you will come across a plethora of activities that could either take you back in time to the Three Kingdoms or have you visiting the latest popular trends from the internet. You can find streets dating back to the Joseon Dynasty while visiting the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, explore Gyeongbokgung Palace while also going to Namsan Tower, Lotte World, internet cafes, noraebang (karaoke), or enjoy kpop concerts. Whichever places you choose to visit, it’s hard to run out of things to do.

Busan circa 1900s.

Considered another iconic city of South Korea, Busan also carries a rich history. During the Goryeo Dynasty (10th Century to 14th Century), Busan was referred to as Pusanpo meaning “kettle-shaped mountain gulf/harbor.” By the early 15th Century or Joseon Dynasty, Busan served as the designated trading port between Joseon (now Korea) and Japan. During the Korean War, the city served as the country’s second-largest city and first largest port city. It has become a major tourist metropolis and has been featured in films such as Train to Busan, Black Panther, and Old Boy. 

(Left to right) Train to Busan, Black Panther, Old Boy.

Gamcheon Culture Village (Busan, South Korea)

One of Busan’s  major tourist attractions is Gamcheon Culture Village, known for its colorful houses, narrow streets, and tight alleyways. The village was originally built in the 1920s and 30s in an attempt to relocate the working class population away from the port. The population rapidly grew during the Korean War in an attempt to rehouse refugees. Post-war, the population declined tremendously and around 2010, the local government sought to give the village new life by collaborating with artists and residents to redecorate the area and attract tourism.

With our Seoul Night and Busan designs, we wanted to share a little history and deeper meaning behind the names of these two iconic Korean cities.

1 comment

Maria Valencia Heredia

I enjoyed reading the rich history and culture of South Korea’s 2 most famous cities. I have been to both and I can attest to the fact that these 2 cities are truly a gem to the beautiful country of South Korea. I fell in love with both cities as they each have their own unique charm. Thankful for this article wonderfully written.

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