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Why the Joseon Empire Chose Seoul as Korea’s Capital

Imperial Family of Korea

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, has long been the official capital in the Korean Peninsula. The city was first chosen as the capital on Oct. 28, 1394 near the start of the Joseon Empire. Previously, the capital was in Kaesong.

According to Robert Koehler’s Joseon’s Royal Heritage: 500 Years of Splendor, Back in 1392, King Yi Seong-gye intentionally sought a new location at which to move the empire’s capital city. The capital of the recently deposed Goryeo dynasty, Gaegyeong, needed to lose its seat as a symbolic gesture of the governmental change in power. A new location, then called Hanyang, was chosen with the help of the best available fengshui experts.

Seoul – Korea’s longtime capital

Hanyang (Seoul) was ultimately chosen because of its ideal location on the northern banks of the Hangang River – an east-west flowing river. Additionally, mountains surrounded the area to the north, creating a fertile, protective basin. Fengshui was also used to select the location of the first Joseon royal palace: Gyeongbokgung. Gyeongbokkgung is located at the base of Mt. Bugaksan. In the following centuries, more grand palaces would be constructed by Joseon kings with a total of five being made in total. The Five Grand Palaces only stood together fully constructed in Seoul in their original form for a little over a decade before being damaged by the Japanese.

Over time, the capital became referred to as Seoul, which means capital city, instead of Hanyang. When the Republic of Korea was formed, Seoul chosen to remain the capital.

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