A detailed look at South Korea’s economic centre

Seoul has many facets with its traditional customs and modern lifestyle and has had numerous different names during its long history. The current name, Seoul, is supposed to come from the Korean word for a capital, Seoraneol. With a population of nearly 10 million people, Seoul has a reputation for being a cosmopolitan city and the centre of the South Korean economy, culture and politics – and is the world’s second-largest city.

Seoul is located in the north-western part of South Korea. The Seoul Capital Area extends over a region measuring 605 square kilometres and its average altitude is just below 86 metres above sea level. The city is divided into two halves by the Han River, which served as the trading route to China in the old days and helped the city grow during the course of its history. However, the river is no longer used for shipping nowadays as its estuary is located on the border between North and South Korea. Seoul is surrounded by several mountains, but the city itself is relatively flat because it is situated on the floodplain.

What visitors should know about the population and climate

Seoul is renowned for its population density, which is approx. 16,530 people per square kilometre; this is because of its very large population and its relatively small geographical area. As a result, a large part of the city consists of settlements with skyscrapers located very close to each other. Most of the residents of Seoul are of Korean descent, apart from some fairly small groups of Chinese and Japanese people. 

The climate in Seoul fluctuates between humid subtropical and humid continental since the city is situated on the border between these two climate zones. The summers are hot and humid and the Eastern Asian monsoon has a powerful influence on the city’s weather during this period. The winters, however, are usually cold and dry, although it normally snows a lot. Having said that, experienced tourists do not need any over-elaborate weatherproof clothing: the average minimum temperature in Seoul in January is -6 degrees Celsius and the average maximum temperature in August is 29.5 degrees Celsius.

Seoul’s superlatives – From business to finance

As one of the largest cities in the world, Seoul is home to the headquarters of many international companies like Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Kia. The city is also responsible for generating more than 20 % of South Korea’s gross domestic product. In addition to the major international companies, Seoul’s economy focuses on tourism, construction and industry. The city is also well-known for its shopping facilities and the Dongdaemun Market (DDM), which is South Korea’s largest.

Manufacturing is one of the most important lines of business in the city. Information technology and the electronics industry have replaced traditional mainstays like the production of textiles and clothing, machines and chemicals. Food processing, beverage production and the publishing and printing industry are also important driving forces in the economy.

The services sector employs the majority of workers in South Korea’s financial centre and the city is also the venue for many trade fairs every year. The many multinational companies and trading groups which have their headquarters in Seoul are some of the most important employers – in addition to financial and insurance companies as well as freelance service providers and business services firms. The headquarters of the large stock markets and banks are located in the northern and southern parts of the city centre and on the island of Yŏŭi.

Tourist attractions worth seeing in the huge city

The city of Seoul has a large number of tourist sights which are really worth visiting – ranging from extensive shopping areas to impressive buildings. It may be hard to decide what to visit because the choice is so enormous. However, anybody who visits this huge city should definitely not miss the following tourist attractions:

Nature and culture in Seoul

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first and largest of the royal palaces that were built during the Joseon dynasty. The palace, which was constructed in 1395, was located at the heart of the newly named capital of Seoul, which was still called Hanyang at that time. It is supposed to represent the supremacy of the Joseon dynasty.

The Han River is the city’s most important landmark and separates its northern and southern parts. Parks and leisure facilities are located on both banks and it is the ideal place to rent a bicycle, take a boat trip along the river or cool off at the public swimming pools during the warm summer months.

Namsan Seoul was built in 1969 as the first integrated mast in South Korea for broadcasting television and radio programmes across the capital. It has been viewed as one of the most popular landmarks in Seoul ever since it was opened in 1980. Some of the tower’s main attractions include multicoloured digital works of art, which are projected onto the tower at night, a digital observatory, a roof terrace, the HanCook restaurant, the n.Grill restaurant and the Haneul (sky) toilet.

Anybody who is looking for local and cultural charm will find it in Insa-dong. The picturesque district at the heart of Seoul takes visitors back to a time when women still wore traditional (hanbok) dresses and men rode on horseback. Tourists should definitely not miss the experience of strolling through Insa-dong with its wooden tea houses, typical Korean restaurants, boutique galleries and street traders – particularly on Sundays, when there is no traffic on the streets and they are full of street musicians and visitors. Insa-dong is not just an entertainment district that does not cost anything to enter, but it is also one of the best places in Seoul to buy traditional Korean art, products and other souvenirs in the various antique, stationery and arts and crafts shops.

Asia’s largest underground shopping mall is located in the Gangnam district of the city. The COEX Shopping Mall offers shopaholics and fashionistas hundreds of clothing and accessory shops, which sell both local and international brands as well as designer and luxury products. The many restaurants and cafés located there ensure that people do not go hungry or thirsty. Other popular attractions at the shopping mall are the Kimchi Museum, the Megabox Cineplex cinema, the COEX Aquarium, the ASEM Plaza and the Event Court, where various performances and exciting events take place every week.

Itaewon is Seoul’s international district and is particularly well-known for its range of western-style food, which is not very common in South Korea – for example, from Great Britain, Germany, France, India, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Mexico, the USA and Canada. In essence, it is known as the ‘international district’ or sometimes as ‘western town’ and forms the antithesis to the typical ‘Chinatowns’ in western countries. Itaewon is one of the most popular places in Seoul for tourists, together with districts and attractions such as Hongdae, Insa-dong and the Seoul Tower. It is home to major hotels such as the Grand Hyatt Seoul and the Hamilton Hotel, the city’s landmark, as well as several smaller hotels and guest houses. The dozens of shops here are mainly geared towards tourists and offer a large variety of souvenirs. However, retailers also sell leather goods at reasonable prices or they are made to order – but a little bit of haggling is normally necessary too.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Han River

Namsan Seoul Tower

Insa-dong

The COEX Shopping Mall

Itaewon

The seven best traditional Korean dishes

After enjoying an extensive cycling tour along the Han River, people naturally expect to stop and have some refreshment. Seoul fortunately does not just offer variation in its wealth of attractions, but even food and drink connoisseurs will find what they want in the city too. We would like to introduce seven typical South Korean specialities in a brief review:

  • Korean soup: Korean soups come in many varieties, have an intensive taste and are very nourishing. Three of the most popular types of soup are doenjang jjigae (a stew made from Korean soya bean paste), kimchi soup (a soup made from a kimchi base, vegetables and tofu cut into slices) and sundubu (a spicy, soft tofu soup, served still on the boil with a raw egg on the side).
  • Korean BBQ: Even if it is easy to find Korean BBQ restaurants nowadays, the concept of consuming meat is relatively new to South Koreans. Meat was a luxury item in the past, which resulted in South Koreans only starting to eat more meat during the 20th century. This led to the popularisation of Korean BBQ and the spread of restaurants providing these dishes in Seoul.
  • Dak-galbi: Dak-galbi is a local speciality from the City of Chuncheon; but it can be found very often in Seoul too. The dish consists of chicken, rice cake and vegetables, which are fried in a large pan with gochujang, a Korean chilli paste.
  • Makgeolli: Makgeolli is a sweet rice wine with an alcohol content of 6 – 8 %. It goes down easily, but is still fairly strong; it is therefore a dangerous drink for people who do not weigh much.
  • Kalguksu: Kalguksu is a traditional Korean noodle soup, for which the noodles are often handmade from wheat flour and cut with knives. The kalguksu noodles may look very plain and simple, but they are really something special! The handmade noodles have a perfect, slippery, elastic texture. The stock itself is very spicy and tasty.

Reliable and efficient logistics benefits

The country’s economic clout, the large number of residents and its excellent location as a handling point for airfreight make South Korea – and Seoul in particular – an attractive destination for companies from all over the world. The logistics specialist from Germany, Rhenus, also conducts business activities in Seoul: the company seamlessly connects the strengths of South Korean hospitality and tradition with the German corporate culture. Rhenus South Korea combines the reliability of airfreight with the cost efficiency of consolidation. The service provider guarantees that the defined delivery dates are met by having transparent relationships with experienced business partners and adopting active measures at the points of departure and destination.

And what can we do for you?

Rhenus South Korea has local expertise and a strong international network and offers a wide range of logistics services and benefits.

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