The History of Yongsan-gu
The Origin of Yongsan-gu
Yongsan-gu began to function as an administrative district on April 17, 1896 under the name “Yongsan-bang.” In October 1945, the name of the district was changed from “Yongsan Guyeokso” to “Yongsan-gu.” On October 18, 1946, the name was once again changed to “Yongsan-gu of Seoul,” which the area is still called today. The smallest administrative unit of “dong” or district was introduced in 1955 by the municipal ordinance of Seoul and still remains in use.
The History of Yongsan-gu
Yongsan, situated at the heart of Seoul, is adjacent to Namsan Mountain to the north and Hangang River to the south. Yongsan is a historically significant district with long-standing traditions that have been upheld since ancient times. The oldest recorded mention of “Yongsan” is in a fable about two dragons that appeared over Hangang River in the 21st year of King Giru’s reign during the Baekje Dynasty. Some also say that the name “Yongsan” (which means “dragon mountain” in Korean) comes from the shape of the area’s mountains, which resemble that of a dragon.
Footsteps of Yongsan
- Center of Seoul, preparing for the ascension of the dragon in the 21st century
- Since ancient times, the dragon, an imaginary animal, has been considered the smartest and strongest of all creatures. Legends describe dragons as having two horns on their head, a body covered in sharp scales that no attacker can penetrate, and sharp claws. It is said that dragons can fly over clouds and crawl and run around on land. Dragons can also transform into other beings at will. Since the dragon was considered to be the most auspicious of all animals, the king’s throne was called “yongjwa” (or “dragon’s chair”), the king’s face was called “yongan” (or “dragon’s face”), and the king’s clothing was called “yongpo” (or “clothing of a dragon”). The name Yongsan comes from the Korean word for dragon, which symbolizes auspiciousness and power.
- Some say that Yongsan got its name from the shape of the surrounding mountains, which resemble that of a dragon, while others say that the name originated from a legend of two dragons that appeared on Hangang River during the Baekje Dynasty. If you look at a map of Seoul, you’ll see that Yongsan is situated right at the center of the city. In terms of the city’s traffic flow, Yongsan connects Yeongdeungpo, Yeongdong, and Sinchon. Yongsan is also a central point between Hangang River, which flows from east to west, Bukhansan Mountain, Namsan Mountain, and Gwanaksan Mountain. In terms of geomantic principles, Yongsan is an auspicious land with Namsan Mountain to its front and Hangang River to its back.
- The First Satellite City in Korea
- Yongsan is viewed as a ‘”blessed land” that, throughout history, has lived up to its name. During the Joseon Dynasty, Yongsan was home to a pier that was always crowded with commercial shops and merchants who visited from all over the country. Yongsan was a major hub where the capitalistic economic activities of modern Korea first began. It was also the first satellite city of Korea.
- Yongsan in the Era of Enlightenment
- Foreigners began to reside and conduct commercial activities in Yongsan after it was designated an “open district” on October 6, 1884. After French, Chinese, and Japanese missionaries were given permission to engage in missionary work in 1887, they came and settled in the area near Wonhyo-ro, and began engaging in religious and commercial activities. In August 1888, the first steam boat was operated on Hangang River, and in 1891, the Yongsan Seminary School was established. This was the first theological school built in a Western style of architecture in all of Korea. On January 9, 1990, the first trolley started operation, running from Seogye-dong to Cheongpa-dong, all the way up to Wonhyo-ro. With these and other developments, Yongsan entered the era of modernization.
- Yongsan, the Last Land of Hope
- Although it has many geographical advantages, Yongsan lagged behind the rest of the nation, in terms of modernization, for many years due to the foreign troops that were stationed in the area for over 100 years as well the railroad site that occupied the center of the district. Despite its setbacks, most Seoul residents will agree that Yongsan is the only land in Seoul that still guarantees profitability and offers hope. The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the central government of Korea have high hopes for Yongsan, as evidenced by the area’s inclusion in almost every major national project.