Photos of Traditional Seoul, Korea’s Ancient Capital, Korea

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Traditional Seoul, Korea’s Ancient Capital

Seoul’s history goes back more than two thousand years: the city, on the Han River, was founded in 18 BCE by Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and was then known as Wiryeseong. It was named Namgyeong during the Goryeo era, from 918 to 1392. After the Joseon dynasty came to power, the capital was moved here in 1394 from Gaeseong (presently Kaesong, North Korea), and it became known as Hanseong or Hanyang. Japan annexed Korea in 1910, and during the Japanese colonial period, until 1945, Seoul was named Keijō in Japanese or Gyeongseong in Korean, although the name “Seoul” was also in use since at least 1882.

Admiral Yi Sun-sin
Turtle ship model
Statue of King Sejong
Sungnyemun Gate
Shop in Bukchon
Bukchon Hanok Village
Central Post Office
Central Post Office
Bosingak belfry
Statue of King Sejong
Jeoldusan Memorial
Seung-Hoon Lee
Seonamsa bell
Pigeons at Seonbawi
Gijaam or Seonbawi
Patriotic Martyr Monument
Dongnimmun Gate
Korea House
Namsangol Hanok Village
Hwanggungu, Hwangudan
Stone drums, Hwangudan
The doors, Hwangudan
Hwanggungu roof

Although heavily damaged during the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, Seoul has many traditional buildings and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, now painstakingly restored, like the “Five Grand Palaces” and the Jongmyo Shrine built during the Joseon Dynasty. There are still traditional “Hanok” houses to be found, in Bukchon and Namsangol Hanok Villages, massive city gates and ancient temples, like the Buddhist-shamanist temple Seonamsa on Inwangsan (White Tiger mountain), overlooking Seoul.

There are reminders of ancient rulers, like King Sejong, who ruled from 1418 to 1450 and under whose patronage the Korean Han’gul script was developed. Statues of heroes like Admiral Yi Sun-sin, the famed Korean naval commander who defeated the Japanese navy in the Imjin wars, the Japanese invasions of Korea in the late 16th century. And monuments to martyrs like Seung-Hoon Lee, the first Korean baptised as a Catholic and executed for his faith in 1801. More recently, the thousands of Koreans who died for the cause of national independence from Japan are commemorated at the Patriotic Martyr Monument.