Seoul is South Korea’s frenetic capital, a rapidly evolving urban powerhouse and the economic engine driving the nation’s development. It has grown massively in recent decades and continues to do so – its population now stands at 10 million, or a staggering 23 million including the metropolitan area, making it one of the most populous and restless cities in the developed world. Exploring all of Seoul’s 25 districts and 522 sub-districts is a challenging odyssey that could take weeks or months to accomplish entirely.
Sprawled on the banks of the Han River, the city occupies a strategically important location on a former transport route to China (sadly closed to the public since the partition of Korea into politically divergent north and south). When economists talk about the ‘Miracle on the Han river’, they are referring to the period of post-war transformation when Seoul reinvented itself as a bastion of free market capitalism. Today, the city is infused with mercantile energy and bold new technological developments, including ubiquitous wireless internet and the most efficient subway system ever. The place to glimpse the high-speed future of South Korea is the trendy district of Gangnam – immortalised by the 2012 tongue-in-cheek hit single, ‘Gangnam style’ – home to gleaming financial towers, multinational corporate headquarters, glitzy night-clubs, penthouse apartment blocks, and upmarket restaurants.