The Birthplace of KPop and KDrama
It is without a doubt that the Korean influence, particularly that of the Hallyu Wave, has taken over about half of the world’s population. From Korean Pop Music (KPop) to Korean Drama (KDrama), vestiges of Korean influence have spread the world over. The heart and soul of this culture: Seoul, South Korea’s capital.
The fascination with KPop, KDrama, and the inimitable adoration for the “oppas” have led to a pivot towards Seoul and the country in general. Seoul has become every devout Filipino fan’s dream destination; it is their fervent desire to visit the city at least once in their lifetimes.
However, to those who are not fans of either, Seoul has a lot to offer beyond these three things that seem to currently define what Seoul and South Korea is. On its own, Seoul is a mecca for all types of travelers -from history lovers to nature lovers to food lovers, the city has a lot to offer.
The Ancient Capital
Everyone now knows that Seoul is the capital city of South Korea. But beyond this, what else do we know about Seoul?
Strategically situated on Han River, the city has a very rich history. It all begun at the northeastern Seoul area where a small community was established by the people of Baekje in 18 BCE. The Baekje is one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and they called their community Wiryeseong. However, it wasn’t until the 11th century that Wiryeseong grew with the construction of the Goryeo Dynasty’ Summer Palace.
Even though Seoul earned the moniker “Southern Capital” during the Goryeo period, it wasn’t until the ascent of the Joseon kings that Seoul, then called Hanyang or Hanseong, was designated as the capital of Korea. Gyeongbuk Palace was the first prominent structure to be built in the 14th century. It served as the first royal residence. The construction of Gyeongbuk Palace was followed by the construction of the Changdeok Palace. The latter became the royal residence in 1611. It would serve as the main royal palace until 1872 while Seoul would serve as the dynasty’s capital until 1910.
Seoul, for most part of its history, was isolated from the rest of the world. The advent of modernization in the old Korean capital begun in the late 19th century when it opened its gates to foreigners. The free trade with the USA and France helped Seoul grow exponentially.
However, the city’s rapid growth was stymied when the Korean Peninsula was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. Moreover, the city was renamed to Gyeongseong and its landscape was drastically altered to mirror that of Japanese cities. At the end of the Second World War, the city was liberated by the American forces. In 1945, the city was officially named Seoul.
But the city’s trouble didn’t end there. A couple of years after the Second World War, it became the center of a tag of war between Russian/Chinese-backed North Korean forces and the American-backed South Korean forces during the Korean War. The war heavily scarred Seoul; the damage was extensive. The wars also didn’t spare the city’s prominent structures like Gyeongbok and Changdeok Palaces.
The Modern Capital
After the war, the city focused on reconstruction and modernization. Its reconstruction accelerated with the rapid economic growth of the country in the 1960s. With the influx of workers, the city started annexing small towns and villages from surrounding counties. A more resilient and more beautiful Seoul emerged from the vestiges of the war.
With over 24 million residing in its metropolitan area, Seoul one of the world’s largest cities. This also represents nearly one half of the country’s entire population. Over the years, it has also hosted several prominent sporting events such the 1986 Asian Games, the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Without a doubt, Seoul has emerged as a global city.
Seoul is not only South Korea’s political capital. It is also its economic, education, cultural and social capital. The city is home to 15 of the 500 Fortune companies, including LG, Samsung, and Hyundai. It is also home to numerous prestigious universities. Seoul ranked 10th on the QS Best Student Cities 2018 list.
Home to five UNESCO Heritage Sites, Seoul, over the years, has begun developing its full tourism potentials, slowly creeping into the list of the most visited cities. It is also one of the top tourism earners in the world.
How To Get There
With the advent of the modernization of air travel, Seoul has become accessible to the rest of the world. For Filipinos, the main entry point is through Incheon International Airport which is located about an hour’s subway ride away from Seoul. There is another international airport located closer to the city, Gimpo International Airport.
Here are some of the airlines that offer nonstop Seoul flights:
There are also nonstop Seoul flights originating from Tagbilaran City through PAL Express airline. Upon Checking, Air Seoul is a subsidiary of Asiana Airlines.
There are other airlines that offer trips to Seoul, however, with at least one stopover. Such airlines include Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, EVA Air and JAL. The abovementioned airlines also have flights with stopovers. It is better to check before booking.
*Jin Air is a South Korean low-cost airline. Official Website: https://www.jinair.com/gate?dispLang=ENG
**Pan Pacific Airlines, formerly Astro Air International is a Philippine low-cost airline established in 1973 and is headquartered in Kalibo, Aklan.
***T’Way Air is another South Korean low-cost airline. Official Website: https://www.jinair.com/gate?dispLang=ENG
****Air Seoul is another South Korean low-cost airline. It is a subsidiary of Asiana Airlines and is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Official Website: https://flyairseoul.com/CW/ko/main.do
This is just the first part of my Seoul Travel Guide Do watch out for the rest of the series which will tackle going around the city, the best destinations and the best places to shop and dine.