By David McNallyJune 26, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON , Republic of Korea -- As the capital of Korea, Seoul is a modern metropolis with conveniences and culture one might expect to find in any first-world nation.
There are many things to do and see in Seoul. Public parks, zoos, museums, temples, cultural activities, concerts, sporting events and even mountain trails are just a few examples of what city life offers.
Life was not always this way in this ancient city.
Before Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world, Seoul was a major city on the northeast Asia. In fact, historians date the settlement of Seoul to 18 B.C. with the establishment of the Baekje Kingdom. To this day, several city walls remain in Southern Seoul dating from this era.
Now, with more than 11 million inhabitants, the city is thriving. It is the economic heart and soul of the Korean people.
During the Japanese occupation of Korea 1910-45, the city was renamed "Keijo." But, with the end of World War II and eviction of the Japanese occupation forces, Koreans returned the city to its rightful name.
The people of Seoul suffered greatly during the Korean War, 1950-53. Millions died. Seoul took the brunt of the destruction. With at least 191,000 buildings, 55,000 houses, and 1,000 factories destroyed in Seoul during the war, residents became homeless refugees left with little more than devastation and hunger.
The Korean people are intelligent and eager to advance. With a literacy rate of 98.6 percent, Korean emphasis on education brings in a large annual harvest of university graduates. The country's top learning centers are all in Seoul.
Twenty four percent of the Republic of Korea's population resides in Seoul and its surrounding suburbs.
In the heart of the city there is a community of more than 25,000 American Servicemembers, Department of Defense Civilian Employees, Family Members, contractors and retirees. U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan is a "little America" inside the fifth largest city on the planet. USAG-Yongsan offers all the comforts of home with the advantage of exotic tour and travel options right outside the gates.
And, outside those gates, visitors will experience western-style movie theaters and shopping malls, and traditional markets and restaurants. Seoul is a unique city, alive with history and leaning toward the future.