Seoul (/soʊl/, like soul; Korean: 서울 [sʌ.ul] (About this soundlisten); lit. ”Capital”), officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. Seoul forms the heart of the Seoul Capital Area. Ranked as an alpha world city, Seoul was the world’s 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$635 billion in 2014 after Tokyo, New York City and Los Angeles. International visitors generally reach Seoul via AREX from the Incheon International Airport, notable for having been rated the best airport for nine consecutive years (2005–2013) by the Airports Council International.
In 2015, it was rated Asia’s most livable city with the second highest quality of life globally by Arcadis, with the GDP per capita (PPP) in Seoul being around $40,000. In 2017, the cost of living in Seoul was ranked 6th globally. In 2018, Seoul’s real estate market was ranked 5th in the world for the price of apartments in the downtown center. Seoul was one of the host cities for the official tournament of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan.
With major technology hubs centered in Gangnam and Digital Media City, the Seoul Capital Area is home to the headquarters of 15 Fortune Global 500 companies, including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. Ranked seventh in the Global Power City Index and Global Financial Centres Index, the metropolis exerts a major influence in global affairs as one of the five leading hosts of global conferences. Seoul has hosted the 1986 Asian Games, 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, and more recently the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit.
Seoul was the capital of various Korean kingdoms, including Baekje, Joseon, and the Korean Empire and served as the secondary capital of Goryeo. Strategically located along the Han River, Seoul’s history could stretch back over two thousand years, when it was founded in 18 BCE by the people of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
The city was later designated the capital of Korea under the Joseon dynasty. Seoul is surrounded by a mountainous and hilly landscape, with Bukhan Mountain located on the northern edge of the city. As with its long history, the Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.
More recently, Seoul has been a major site of modern architectural construction – major modern landmarks include the N Seoul Tower, the 63 Building, the Lotte World Tower, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Lotte World, Trade Tower, COEX, and the IFC Seoul. Seoul was named the 2010 World Design Capital. As the birthplace of K-pop and the Korean Wave, Seoul received over 10 million international visitors in 2014, making it the world’s 9th most visited city and 4th largest earner in tourism.