Located on the Han River, Seoul, Korea's capital city has grown into a teeming metropolis with a population of more than 11 million representing over 24 percent of the entire county's population. The area of the city took the form of a town about 2,000 years ago when it was chosen as the capital of the Baekche Kingdom (18 B.C. ~ 660 A.D.), one of the three ancient states on the Korean peninusla. Originally called Wirye-Song, the name was changed to Hanyang-Gun after the Silla integrated the two other states in 668 A.D..
Upon the founding of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392, Seoul became the capital of Korea. After extensive searches, the founding king, Yi SongGye, decided to build his capital where today's Seoul stands. The decision was based not only on the city's geographical location in central Korea, but also using the prevalent geomantic principles of the time. On October 28, 1394, the King moved his court to Hanyang. The King built Royal shrines, palace buildings, as well as a fortified wall surrounding the capital. 197,000 workers toiled for 98 days to erect the 17 kilometer wall. The administrative area of the capital was broken down into five inner-wall zones. The function of these zones was comparable to today's Gus (wards).
Historical records from the tenth year of King Sejong's reign (1428) show the population stood at 103,328 inside the wall and approximately 110,000 including those on the outside. Considering the large amount of unusable land inside the walls, the population density was rather high. In order to accommodate so many people, canals were dug as sewers.
For roughly 200 years from the 1660's, the population of Seoul remained close to 200,000. Toward the end of the 19th century, however, the population began to increase. The opening of the nation to foreign powers and the opening of foreign missions in Seoul gave the city its first cosmopolitan touches. Following the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910, Seoul was renamed Gyongsong. In 1936, its population stood at 730,000.
As a result of the Korean War the burgeoning capital city was reduced to piles of debris. The signing of the Armistice Agreement saw Seoul regain the function of national capital while the government worked quickly to rebuild it into a modern metropolis. Under a special legislative measure enacted in 1962, the Seoul Metropolitan Government was put under direct control of the Prime Minister. This act enabled Seoul to develop into an autonomous administration separated from supervision by the central government. The administrative area of the capital city was again expanded to 593.75 square kilometers in January 1963, and further to 605.30 square kilometers in March 1973.
After successfully hosting the Asian Games in 1986 and the Olympiad in 1988, Seoul has made great strides to be ranked among the most advanced capital cities in the world. By introducing self-government rule in 1991, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has laid the foundation for the self-administration by the citizens of Seoul. Today's Seoul is home to roughly 11 million people and encompasses 605.58 square kilometers. While maintaining and restructuring the city which has greatly expanded in the process of urbanization and industrialization over the past 30 years, the city of Seoul continues to grow into a prosperous and thriving city.
The area of Seoul as of April, 1995, is 605.77 §´, or 0.6% of the entire country (as of the end of April, 1995). The Han River bisects the city into two parts, nothern and southern Seoul. Northern Seoul totals 298.04 §´ (49.2 %) while the southern part is 307.73 §´ (50.8 %). Among the 25 autonomous "gu" or wards of Seoul, the largest is Seocho-gu (47.20 km) and the smallest is Chung-gu with an area only one fifth (9.97 km) that of Seocho-gu.
The expansion of the city has been curbed since the last administrative reorganization in 1973. The lifestyles of Seoul citizens, however, have been influenced since the 1970s due to the rapid growth of satellite cities around the capital area. Seoul has a population of 10,798,700 individuals and 3,455,665 households as of the end of 1994. This accounts for about a quarter of the total national population. As for the proportion of male to female, men (5,429,554) slightly outnumber women (5,369,146).
Eight out of the 25 "gu" or wards have more than 500,000 residents. Songpa-gu has the biggest population of some 700,000. In contrast, Chung-ku has a population of only 176,000. In the past 600 years since Seoul became the capital of the nation in 1394, the population of Seoul has grown 110 times. It has one of the highest population densities in the world of 17,836 persons/square kilometer. The number of foreign residents in Seoul as of the end of 1994 is 39,246 or 0.36 % of Seoul's total population. They include 15,032 Americans, 11,521 Chinese, and 4,603 Japanese. There are people of more than 90 different nationalities currently residing in Seoul, forming a small global village.
Seoul belongs to the temperate zone featured by four distinctive seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The yearly average temperature of Seoul is 11.8 degrees C. Temperatures in Seoul tend to fluctuate a great deal, reaching as high as 38.4 degrees C in the summer and dropping as low as -12.6 degrees C in the winter. Influenced by the north Pacific high pressure system, Seoul has hot and humid summers with average temperatures above 20 degrees C from June through September. During the midsummer period the city often records daily highs of over 30 degrees C. In winter, Seoul is topographically influenced by the expansion of the Siberian high pressure and prevailing west wind with temperatures dropping lower than other regions on the same latitude. The rise and fall of the high pressure system causes a typical cycle of three successive cold days followed by four warmer days, relieving people from freezing temperatures.
The annual precipitation in Seoul averages 1,369.8 mm, which is more than the average amount of rainfall across the peninsula. Most of the rainfall is concentrated in the rainy months (monsoon period) of June through September when downpours account for about 70 % of the total annual precipitation. Except for those rainy spells, however, Seoul boasts fine weather throughout the year and is especially famous for its azure autumn skies