Seoul

ABOUT THE CITY

As Korea’s capital and most populous city, Seoul represents the country’s center for business, education, and modern culture. With a population of over 10 million, it is one of the world’s largest cities.  Seoul ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of Fortune Global 500 transnational companies headquartered there.

The ancient capital of an ancient land, Seoul is a city where the traditional and the cutting-edge exist side-by-side in perfect harmony. The traditional heart of Seoul is the old Joseon Dynasty city, which is now the downtown area, where most palaces, government offices, corporate headquarters, hotels, and traditional markets are located. Yet mountains circle Seoul on all sides with Namsan (South Mountain) springing up in the center.

If the move has left you worn out and stressed, developing a peaceful mind is of the utmost importance in living a healthy, quality life in Seoul.  Do as many locals, find mental composure and solace through practicing Zen at the Ahnkook Zen Center.

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    About Seoul

    The seventh largest city in the world, the dynamic capital of South Korea is a bewitching mix of ancient and modern. A cutting-edge cityscape of glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers tower over traditional wooden houses with tiled roofs and a maze of cobbled alleys in distinct, village-like districts. High-tech electronic equipment, neon signs clamoring for attention and glittering designer stores lie around the corner from night markets, ancient palaces and temples. A tributary of the Han River winds through it all, bisecting the city, cooling the hot summers and offering moments of calm away from the crowds.

    Founded 600 years ago by the Joseon dynasty, Seoul has a truly Asian heart (despite American influence and modernization), which can be seen clearly in its distinctive, aromatic and healthy food, much of it vegetarian.

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    History

    The beginnings of this fast-growing and increasingly important world-class city are difficult to pinpoint, but archaeological evidence indicates human settlement in the area during the prehistoric age, some 6,000 years ago. Artifacts found here reveal an agricultural people, who used stone tools for farming in the fertile Han River Basin.

    Seoul–which comes from the Korean word meaning “capital”–was not always referred to by its current name. During the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC to 668 AD) of Paekche, Koguryo and Shilla, the territory was first known by the name Wirye-Song. It was chosen as the capital of the Paekche Kingdom and occupied a site in the northeastern section of what is present-day Seoul.

    Shilla, upon conquering the Paekche and Koguryo kindgoms in 668, triumphantly moved the capital south across the Han River and renamed it Hansong.

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    Climate

    Month Avg. High Avg. Low
    Jan 33°F 21°F
    Feb 38°F 25°F
    Mar 49°F 35°F
    Apr 62°F 46°F
    May 72°F 55°F
    Jun 79°F 64°F
    Jul 82°F 71°F
    Aug 84°F 72°F
    Sep 77°F 63°F
    Oct 66°F 51°F
    Nov 51°F 38°F
    Dec 38°F 27°F

    Economy

    Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies. Today its GDP per capita is equal to the lesser economies of the EU. This success was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea’s development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector.

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    Taxes

    If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien living or traveling outside the United States, you generally are required to file income tax returns, estate tax returns, and gift tax returns and pay estimated tax in the same way as those residing in the United States. Your income, filing status, and age generally determine whether you must file a return. Generally, you must file a return if your gross income from worldwide sources is at least the amount shown for your filing status in the Filing Requirements table in Chapter 1 of Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad (available at www.irs.gov). The IRS web site has a wealth of information available for the overseas taxpayer. Follow the ‘Individuals’ and ‘International Taxpayers’ links, or search for IRS Publication 54.

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    Pets

    When you arrive at the international Airport, you must go to the NVRQS(National Veterinary Research & Quarantine Service) office for the purpose of Quarantine procedure with your pet and its certificate.

    You must bring a veterinary certificate issued by a licensed veterinarin and endorsed by the State USDA office of the exporting country will certify the animal is disease-free and been vaccinated for rabies at least 30 days prior to travel. Rabies vaccination is not required for pets under 3 months of age however you must have a certificate from a licensed veterinarian stating that the pet is healthy, free of parasites, and free of diseases communicable to humans.

    The Dog or Cat will be released into your custody the same day provided that you submit the required veterinary certificate and upon inspection the pet is found to be healthy.

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    By Car

    If you wish to drive in Korea with a Korean license, following documents are needed:
    U.S. Passport
    Valid state drivers license from the U.S., with a translated and notarized copy
    Certificate of Alien Registration
    Three (3) photos (3cm x 4cm)
    Fee of 15,000 won
    Eye examination
    Written Test (Korea Transportation Law) 4,000 won

    For additional information, please contact:
    Kangnam Driver License Office
    998-1 Daichi-dong, Kangnam-Gu
    Seoul, Korea
    Tel. 555-0743 or 555-0831

    International Driver Licenses are recognized in Korea and valid for a year from the date of entry. The Korean government does not issue International Driver Licenses for foreigners; these licenses must be obtained outside of Korea.

    You may wish to visit one of these web sites for additional information on obtaining an international drivers license:
    The American Automobile Association (AAA)
    The National Auto Club
    The 21st Century Insurance Company 800-622-5292.

    Also see the section on traffic laws in the part about legal problems, or more details on Road Safety Overseas.

    Public Transportation

    Bus
    City buses are classified by one of four colours: blue, green, red or yellow and many have bilingual signs. Blue and red buses are the speediest but yellow buses are the most useful for foreigners, travelling a loop around downtown Seoul calling at main rail stations, tourist and shopping areas. Check bus routes on http://bus.congnamul.com. Most buses run until 2300, and some until 0200.

    Subway
    Seoul Metro
    Lines 1-4
    (02) 1577 1234
    www.seoulmetro.co.kr

    Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation
    Lines 5-8
    (02) 6311 2200
    www.smrt.co.kr

    The Seoul Subway is one of the fastest in the world and connects with buses. Trains are clean, frequent and punctual and its eight colour-coded lines (and 400 stops) have signs and announcements in English. Trains run from 0600-2330 every two-six minutes in rush hour (0700-0900 and 1600-1900) and five-12 minutes at all other times. A 30-day Metro Pass is available.

    The rechargeable T-money Card (tel: (02) 735 8688), available from convenience stores and subway ticket counters, can be used to pay for public transport and, in the future, even taxis. A one-to-three day Seoul City Pass allows for 20 trips a day on bus and subway and unlimited journeys on the Seoul City Tour Bus and also acts as a discount card on tourist attractions.

    Taxi
    There are four types of taxi in Seoul: regular taxis, deluxe taxis, high-tech brand taxis and luggage friendly eight-seater jumbo taxis, some with a ‘free interpretation’ online service. Deluxe taxis (tel: (02) 3431 5100) are black and yellow and offer a high level of service. Brand taxis include Kind Call Taxi (tel: (02) 1588 3382), KT Powertel (tel: (02) 1588 0082) and Jumbo Taxis (tel: (02) 888 2000).

    Bicycle
    Cycle paths have been introduced along the canals and rivers running through Seoul, taking cyclists into the city centre and there are also bike trails in the easily reached surrounding hills and mountains. Bicycle hire is available from Filthy Bikes (website: www.mtbk-adventure.com).

    Air Transportation

    Incheon Airport
    www.airport.or.kr

    Incheon Airport looks like a spaceship and has all the modern amenities that could imply, including a sauna and optician.  There are shuttles and buses to major hotels and areas downtown.

    You may purchase Limousine and Premium Bus tickets and information at the passenger terminal arrival floor by the Transportation Information counter located at exit 2, 4, 9 and 13.

    Taxi stands are located at the Passenger Terminal Arrival floor (1st Floor) between platform 4D and 8C. Incheon airport is a select business zone where long distance premium on taxi fares are not imposed, therefore the long distance premium is not added when traveling out to Seoul and Gyeonggi province. (in Gyeonggi province, only 4 cities, Bucheon, Gwangmyeong, Gimpo and Goyang are available)

    Taxis will normally occupy the area designated as taxi stands outside the arrival floor. The taxis will vary in color, but will mostly be white. They can be easily recognized by their special blue or green plastic cab marking on the roof. There are Special taxis in black color and are more expensive than normal taxis. These are the deluxe cabs. Differences between the normal taxi is usually limited to better cars, seats, and equipments such as GPS positioning devices and traffic situation indicators. Also these deluxe cabs, unlike normal taxis which only take cash, usually carry mobile credit-card terminals which allow customers to use worldwide-accepted credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. Most taxi drivers operating at the airport can speak English, but in most cases, not fluently and will be difficult to understand. As a result, some taxi companies offer free translation via cell phone (provided by the taxi driver, to be returned after call is complete), but in most cases, the taxi drivers will not allow this service as the companies force the taxi drivers to pay for the minutes. It is recommended to have your destination written down on a piece of paper before entering a taxi. Be advised, in most cases, the passenger will be expected to pay for the tolls in addition to the taxi fare. Tips are not necessary.

    The Incheon International Airport Railroad (A’REX), was recently opened to service on March 23, 2007. The station is located in the Transportation Center adjacent to the main terminal building. The trains of A’REX can speed up to 120 km/h, almost two times faster than a normal subway train and cutting the travel time from Gimpo Airport to approximately 30 minutes. As of 2007, only the first phase of the construction was opened to the public (Incheon International Airport – Gimpo Airport). The remaining phase of the construction is expected to be completed by 2010 (Gimpo Airport – Seoul Station).

    Attractions

    Gyeongbokgung Palace
    The jewel of Seoul’s five historic palaces, Gyeongbokgung was built in 1395 by Lee Seong-Gye, founder of the Joseon Dynasty, who established the city as the capital of Korea. The magnificent rectangular palace, which now contains the National Museum of Korea, features Royal apartments and state rooms, gardens and elegant lotus ponds.

    Insa-dong
    No visit to Seoul is complete without exploring the capital’s heart and artistic soul: the alleyways of the Insa-dong district, known colloquially as ‘Mary’s Alley’. More than 100 antique shops and countless art galleries are tucked away here, delighting collectors and casual browsers alike. From ancient Chinese pottery to yellowed books and delicate jewellery, most visitors manage to find a treasured souvenir or special gift among the quaint stores. There are plenty of restaurants, taverns and traditional teahouses in the area, too, to ensure shoppers stay refreshed.

    Namsan Park
    Mount Namsan, the mountain that stands sentinel in the centre of Seoul, is a popular recreational feature in the city. A cable car, and stairway, takes visitors to the summit, where there are several attractions to enjoy, including the Maritime Aquarium, botanical gardens, fountains and the Seoul Tower, which, rising 1,575ft (480m), offers a fantastic view of the city and surrounds. The revolving restaurant on top of the tower is particularly popular for dinner because of the breathtaking view it affords of Seoul by night.

    Namsangol Hanok Village
    Set among the skyscrapers, the Namsangol traditional Korean village comes as a pleasant surprise. Centered on five restored Korean historical homes depicting various social levels from the Joseon Dynasty, the village is a time capsule in the midst of the city with its peaceful pond and pavilion. Visitors can not only explore the houses, but also enjoy traditional tea, shop for souvenirs, browse traditional crafts, or try their hand at ancient games like ‘neolttwigi’ (jumping on a see-saw) or arrow throwing.

    National Museum of Korea
    South Korea’s biggest museum is home to more than 130,000 artifacts that chart the country’s artistic development over 5,000 years. Highlights include Buddhist statues and Joseon era paintings.

    Jogyesa Temple
    Constructed in 1910 the temple is at the center of the Buddhist faith in Seoul. It is worth visiting to see the Daewongjun Hall or Main Buddha Hall (a traditional wooden temple adorned with colorful artwork and the scenes of Buddha’s life) alone. A major reconstruction program began in 2003.

    Seoul Tower
    Standing 370m (1,214ft) above sea level and revolving 360º, the tower has been wowing visitors with dramatic views over downtown Korea and the surrounding landscape for 30 years.

    Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon
    Many of the former Joseon rulers made Changdeokgung Palace their home. Visiting the beautifully landscaped Huwon gardens, complete with its pond and ornate pavilion, it is easy to see why.

    Electricity & Time Zone

    Electricity
    220V 60HzHz
    European plug with two circular metal pins

    Time Zone
    The definition for time zones can be written in short form as UTC±n (or GMT±n), where n is the offset in hours. Here is an example given the local time in Seoul and New York City at 12:00 UTC when daylight savings time is not in effect:

    Seoul Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 9 hours = 9:00pm
    NYC Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC – 5 hours = 7:00am

    Seoul is on Korea Standard Time and does not observe Daylight Savings time.

    Embassy & Visa

    Embassy
    Embassy of the United States Seoul
    32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
    Seoul 110-710
    Republic of Korea
    82-2-397-4114
    82-2-397-4101 (Fax)
    http://seoul.usembassy.gov

    Visa
    American Citizens with valid U.S. passports may enter Korea for a period of 30 days without a visa (arrival day counts as day number one). All foreigners who stay in Korea more than 90 days must obtain residence certificates. Fingerprints are generally required of all foreigners over age 20 who will be here for at least one year. Americans must keep their visa status current with Korean Immigration. Violators of immigration and entry/exit regulations are subject to fines; i.e., if foreigners overstay their visas they must pay substantial fines. The lowest fine is usually about 100,000 won for an overstay of 30 days or less. Children born in Korea need to obtain visas and other pertinent documentation, and be reported to Korean Immigration, within 30 days of birth.

    Permission is required to engage in any activity (e.g., part-time work) not covered by the original visa or status of entry. Work visas are not granted in Korea; this type of visa must be obtained before entry. You must obtain extensions of stay before the expiration of the allowed period.

    Etiquette

    The People

    Korea is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, racially and linguistically. It has its own culture, language, dress and cuisine, separate and distinct from its neighboring countries. Hard work, filial piety and modesty are characteristics esteemed by Koreans. They are proud of their traditional culture and their modern economic success. Education is highly valued as the path to status, money and success.

    Meeting and Greeting

    The bow is the traditional Korean greeting, although it is often accompanied by a handshake among men. To show respect when shaking hands, support your right forearm with your left hand.

    Korean women usually nod slightly and will not shake hands with Western men. Western women may offer their hand to a Korean man.

    Bow when departing. Younger people wave (move their arm from side to side).

    Names and Titles

    It is considered very impolite to address a Korean with his or her given name. Address Koreans using appropriate professional titles until specifically invited by your host or colleagues to use their given names.

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    Private Schools

    Seoul Foreign School

    55 Yonhuidong Seodaemunku

    Seoul 120-113

    Tel:  02-330-3100

    Fax:  02-330-1875

    E-mail:  sfsoffice@sfs.or.kr

    Grade offered:  Pre-school – Grade 12

    Seoul International School

    San 32-16 Bokjongdong Soojungku

    Sungnam Kyungki 461-200

    Songpa PO Box 47

    Seoul 138-600

    Tel:  02-2233-4551/4552

    Fax:  031-759-5133

    E-mail:  info@siskorea.or.kr

    Grade Offered:  Kindergarten – Grade 12

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