Seoul, Korea

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and the economic and cultural center of the Republic of Korea. Situated on the lower Han River the capital is only 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone established with North Korea in 1953. The heart of Seoul is dominated by a city center that dates to the Yi dynasty state, which began in the 14th Century. Although skyscrapers now exist, the central city retains the layout of the royal capital which was designed according to traditional Chinese principles of city panning -- main streets running north-south and east-west. City Hall Plaza is the hub of much of the economic activity in Seoul, with two subway lines converging in this area, and many corporate office buildings, hotels, banks, and department stores. Seoul also achieved international recognition when it hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics.

It is estimated that Seoul was founded over two thousand years ago, with three warring kingdoms battling for control of Seoul because of its strategic location in the Han River valley. What is today modern-day Seoul was first occupied in 554 and called "Hanyang" -- a name used for Seoul ever since. In 1068, King Munjong made Hanyang one of several regional sub-capitals, and when the Yi Dynasty overthrew the Koryo ruling house in 1392, Hanyang was renamed and became the capital two years later.

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