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(sā`o͞ol, sā`o͝ol, sōl), city (1995 pop. 10,229,262), capital of South Korea, NW South Korea, on the Han River. It has special status equivalent to that of a province. The political, commercial, industrial, and cultural center of the nation, Seoul is by far the most important city in the country, containing almost one quarter of its citizens. In the 15 years between 1970 and 1985 the population grew by over 4,000,000 and Seoul modernized dramatically, becoming one of the world's major cities.

Seoul is linked by rail, expressway, and subway with IncheonIncheon
or Inchon
, city (1995 pop. 2,307,618), Gyeonggi (Kyonggi) prov., NW South Korea, on the Yellow Sea (or West Sea). The country's second largest port, Incheon has an ice-free harbor (protected by a tidal basin) and is the port and commercial center for Seoul.
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 (Inchon), its port, and there are airports there and at Gimpo (Kimpo). Before the partition of Korea in 1945, Seoul's easy access to industrial raw materials stimulated the establishment of iron, steel, and other primary industries; with most of the raw materials now in North Korea, the city has emphasized textile manufacturing, agricultural processing, automobiles, electronics, petrochemicals, printing, publishing, and varied consumer and service industries. There are also tanneries, railroad repair shops, and large power plants.

Seoul was an early fortress and trade center, and the modern city was established in 1394 as the capital of the Choson (or Yi) dynasty, which ruled Korea until the country became (1910) a colony of Japan. The Japanese governor-general made Seoul (known as Kyongsong or Keijo) his headquarters. When the country was partitioned after World War II, Seoul became the seat of the U.S. occupation forces. It became the capital of South Korea in 1948. North Korean forces captured the city on June 28, 1950, only three days after the Korean War began; it then changed hands several times until UN troops took it in Mar., 1951, and it became the headquarters of the UN Command and U.S. forces in Korea (until 2018, when both headquarters were moved to PyeongtaekPyeongtaek
or Pyongtaek,
city (2016 pop. 470,832), Gyeonggi prov., NW South Korea, 45 mi (70 km) S of Seoul. In a rice, fruit, and dairy farming area, it is a port on the Yellow Sea and home to large electronics firms.
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). Heavily damaged during the war, the city was rebuilt along modern lines. Its population was greatly increased by refugees.

Seoul retains two gates of the ancient wall that once surrounded it and three imperial palaces—the Gyeongbok Palace, built in 1394 by the first monarch of the Choson dynasty; the Changdeok Palace, containing many valuable relics; and the Deoksu Palace (1593), which houses the National Museum and Art Gallery. In the center of the city is a huge bronze bell that was cast in 1468. It has a Roman Catholic cathedral and numerous other Christian churches; there are also the soaring Lotte World Tower and N Seoul Tower, many museums, theatres, libraries, zoological and botanical gardens, and universities, including Seoul National Univ. Seoul played host to the 1988 summer Olympics, for which it built the Seoul Sports Complex.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the largest city and economic and cultural center of South Korea; situated on the navigable Han River (Han-gang), 90 km from its influx into Kanghwa Bay of the Yellow Sea, at an elevation of 29 m. The climate is monsoonal. The winter is dry, and the average temperature in January is -6.2°C. The summer is humid and hot, with frequent rains and heavy downpours; the average temperature in July is 24.7°C. The city has an annual precipitation of about 1,200 mm. Area, 613 sq km (1971). Population, including suburbs, 6.5 million (1973; 197,000 in 1897; 288,000 in 1922; 1.1 million in 1942). Seoul is a separate administrative unit, equivalent to a province, and is governed by a special administration appointed by the South Korean government. It has no elected governmental bodies.

At first, in the early Middle Ages, Seoul was a military fortress. Until the late 14th century it was a small town. In 1394, after the founding of the Yi dynasty in 1392, it became the capital of Korea and entered a period of rapid growth. In 1592 and 1593 Seoul was devastated by a Japanese invasion. Between the 1870’s and 1890’s, foreign capital penetrated Korea, in particular, Seoul industry. From 1905, when Japan established a protectorate over Korea, Seoul was the headquarters of the Japanese resident-general, and from 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, the headquarters of the Japanese governor-general.

Since the late 19th century, Seoul has been a major center of the Korean people’s national liberation struggle. In 1882 it was the scene of a major popular uprising. Popular demonstrations against the Japanese colonialists were also held in 1884, 1896, 1905, and 1907. On Mar. 1, 1919, an anti-Japanese demonstration of 300,000 people in Seoul marked the beginning of the March 1919 Uprising in Korea. Under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, Marxist circles and communist groups sprang up in Seoul and other Korean cities; in 1925 the Communist Party of Korea (CPK) was created on the basis of these circles and groups. In June 1926 the CPK led a large anti-Japanese demonstration in Seoul.

Since 1948, Seoul has been the seat of the South Korean government, which was formed by local reactionaries with the support of US imperialist circles set on partitioning Korea and creating a separate antipeople’s regime in South Korea. In April 1960 the people of Seoul played an important role in ousting Syngman Rhee, the lackey of the American monopolies. Between 1964 and 1975, demonstrations were held in Seoul against the reactionary policy of the South Korean government of Chung Hee Park.

Favored by its location on major transportation routes between south and north, Seoul is one of South Korea’s most important transportation centers, a major railroad and highway junction. The seaport of Inchon (Chemulpo), located west of Seoul, is Seoul’s outport; the two cities are linked by railroad and an expressway. Seoul itself has a port and an airport.

Seoul, with Inchon, forms an important economic region of South Korea, accounting for 45 percent of the country’s industrial production (1970). Until the 1950’s, Seoul was noted primarily for light industry and food processing. Since the 1960’s, heavy industry has grown rapidly, for example, metallurgy and machine building, especially the assembly and repair of motor vehicles and machines. Other branches of heavy industry are the chemical industry and the electrical and electronics industry, which for the most part assembles units produced abroad. Seoul is a major producer of textiles, mostly cotton textiles. The food-processing industry is represented by distilling, rice cleaning, and flour milling. Seoul also has enterprises that produce rubber goods, leather, printed materials, paper, china, and building materials, such as glass and cement.

Many of Seoul’s enterprises belong to firms owned partly or mostly by foreign capital, chiefly Japanese and American. Seoul has South Korea’s principal financial and industrial associations, insurance and trading companies, banks—the Bank of Korea, the Korea Development Bank, and the Korea Exchange Bank—and branches of foreign banks and firms. The first section of a subway system was completed in 1974.


Downtown Seoul, which is laid out in a regular grid, is built up with modern high-rise buildings. The southern and eastern sections have neighborhoods with narrow, crooked streets, and the outskirts are mostly slums. In the redevelopment efforts of the 1960’s, broad thoroughfares were laid out, and high-rise buildings were erected.

Seoul’s architectural monuments include the three-tier Hyo-myo pagoda of the Popchong temple (1085), the fortress wall of Hanyang (partly preserved, 1392–1446) with the Nam dae Gate in the south (1395) and Tong dae Gate in the east (1396), and the enormous palace complex of the Kyongbok-Kung. The last consists of numerous ceremonial and residential buildings, interspersed with courtyards and parks (1394; destroyed 1592, rebuilt in the 19th century and again destroyed in the war of 1950–53) and the halls of Kunjong, Sunjong, Sajong, Kang-nyong, and Kyot’ae. Other outstanding architectural monuments are the Changdok Palace (1404, destroyed 1592, restored in the 17th century), the pagoda of the Wongak temple (1467), Ch’angyong (15th-17th centuries), and Toksu (16th century), a complex that includes the Sokjon Hall (1901–11, now the National Museum) and the building of the Museum of Modern Art.

Seoul is the home of Seoul National University and several private universities, including Yonsei, Hanyang, and Korea universities; it also has the Theatrical Institute and the Choreographic Institute. Seoul’s learned societies include the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Arts, as well as scientific research institutes of geology, atomic energy, and radiation medicine. The largest libraries are the National Central Library and the university libraries. Museums include the National Museum, the Art Gallery of the Kyongbok-kung, and the Museum of Modern Art. Theaters include the National Theater, Theater of the East, the Experimental Theater, and the Contemporary Theater as well as a puppet theater, and a theater of masks; there is also a ballet troupe. Seoul also has the Theatrical Society and the Museum Society.


Chapin, H. B. “Palaces in Seoul.” Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 1951. vol. 32. pp. 3–46.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of South Korea, in the west on the Han River: capital of Korea from 1392 to 1910, then seat of the Japanese administration until 1945; became capital of South Korea in 1948; cultural and educational centre. Pop.: 9 592 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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