Seoul, officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest city of South Korea.
Located on the Han River in the center of the Korean Peninsula, Seoul has been a major settlement for over 2,000 years, with its history dating back to 18 BC, 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 millenia, 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.
Splashes of nature are beginning to appear out of the blue: Cheonggye stream, which used to be covered by a road, has been uncovered and reborn, and an instant woodland, Ttukseom Seoul Forest, has been planted on what used to be a racetrack and sports fields.
Thousands of expats live and work in Seoul - most enjoy their stay and a few never leave. Their main struggle is usually with the language as English is not widely spoken or understood. Seoul has its rough edges: traffic congestion, ugly high-rises, and not all the characteristics that have lead to the city’s astonishing economic success are endearing. But as with working abroad anywhere, a positive attitude, adaptability and understanding are the keys to an enjoyable long-term stay.
Recommended excursions include touring the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is a fascinating but stark reminder of the dangerous division of the country; walking around the rebuilt walls of Suwon’s World Heritage fortress; and boarding a ferry to the beaches and seafood restaurants on unspoilt islands in the West Sea.
No other Korean city approaches the size and importance of rush-rush Seoul with its nearly 11 million residents and another eight million who live within commuting distance. It is the dynamic political, financial, educational and cultural hub of the world’s 11th largest economy. Seoul is a 600-year-old capital, a complex, rarely explored Asian city that is a fascinating cultural bibimbap of rude energy, Confucian rules and democratic values, where Buddhists and shamanists rub shoulders with Christians and atheists.
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Seoul Currency: Won (1 USD = 1,263 KRW)
Seoul Time Difference: UTC/GMT +9 hours