Seoul, South Korea, the nation's capital and one of the world's largest cities. It lies on the Han River in the northwestern part of the country, near the Yellow Sea and the North Korean border. Low mountains nearly surround the city.
Seoul is the commercial, industrial, cultural, and educational center of South Korea. Most of the nation's largest banks, manufacturing companies, and industrial organizations have headquarters in the city. Consumer and industrial goods are produced in great variety in and near Seoul.
High-rise buildings tower above the downtown area. Stately old palaces, tranquil gardens, and treasure-filled museums are found in several areas. Seoul is served by a network of railways, highways, and subway lines. Also serving Seoul are the port of Inchon, about 20 miles (30 km) west of the city, and Kimpo International Airport, about 10 miles (15 km) west of downtown.
Most of Seoul has been built since the Korean War (1950–53), when much of the city was destroyed. Remaining historic landmarks include former royal palaces, some built originally about the time of the city's founding late in the 14th century. Among them are Kyongbok, Changdok, and Toksu palaces. On the grounds of Kyongbok Palace is the National Museum, with exhibits pertaining to Korean history and culture; and the National Folklore Museum, a branch of the National Museum. Other museums include the National Museum of Science and the National Museum of Modern Art. There are three western-style symphony orchestras, a traditional Korean orchestra, three dance companies, and two opera companies. Grand Park is the site of a zoo and botanic garden.
More than 20 large universities and colleges are in Seoul, including Seoul National and Yonsei universities. Also in the city are the National Academy of Sciences and numerous research institutes and learned societies.
Seoul was founded in 1392 by Taejo, founder of the Yi Dynasty, and was the dynastic capital until Japan annexed Korea in 1910. The city, called Keijo by the Japanese, was the seat of the Japanese governor-general until the end of World War II, when it was occupied by United States troops. Seoul was made the capital of the newly formed Republic of Korea (South Korea) in 1948.
Seoul suffered tremendous damage during the Korean War. It was captured twice by North Korean forces (in 1950 and in 1951). The city underwent rapid economic and population growth during the 1960's and 1970's. In 1988 Seoul was the site of the Summer Olympic Games.