One of the most popular capital cities of the world and one that lays claim to this distinction even much beyond its administrative importance in the South Korean context, Seoul is a destination in diverse detailing of whatever it might be that caters to the individual fancy. As a city that thrives most popularly on the back of its massively breakthrough identity of Hallyu or the Korean Wave, it is easy to see the contemporary reference in fame in which Seoul resides today as an existence in itself that transcends even the repository of its richly held legacy in history and heritage.
And yet this standing in a phenomenal craze of rather recent dwelling does not really discount the allure of the ancientry that Seoul emerges out of as case in continuity since perhaps forever. For a city the very name of which alludes to the word ‘capital’, Seoul has always imbibed in itself the true essence of its nomenclature ever since its gaining of status as being the capital of the Korean nation well over a six centuries back. More pertaining in accuracy to the South Korean identity ever since this division of the country was eked out in 1948 has been this city of immensely dynamic appeal that has only grown in stature and significance over the period of the following decades to encompass for itself a reputation that easily strikes as being the most imposing and at the same time the most intriguing as well assertion of a country easily one of the most recognisable in its definite 21st century distinction.
This ‘Miracle on the Han River’ and a global city rated as an Alpha in this realm of identity has to its credit a repertoire of what it means to be a truly cosmopolitan experience, buzzing as it is with elements of existence ranging from the deeply traditional to the immensely modern. Recognised in the towering reaches of its skyscrapers as much as it is captivating of attention in the ornate extent of its palaces and the remnants of the architectural glory so characteristic of any existence emerging from the deep seated alleys of history is this depiction in vividness not just of the exuberance of its presentation but also the encapsulating essence of its culture.
Across every fragment of the thread that composes the cumulative framework of the city of Seoul runs a peculiarity that so brilliantly captures the picture perfect aspect of its existing as a place buoyant in just about every expression in life. Whether that be the spiritual reverence flowing in profusion through its many a temples and shrine of religious importance or the energy in infectiousness marking the characterisation of its new found expression as a mode in cultural residing that has imprinted upon the world its own charms in unsurpassed compulsion, Seoul speaks of a character arising from the deepest cores of what unpredictability stands for.
All such explorations in physicality do well indeed to establish the prettiness that Seoul as a part of the South Korean narrative necessarily comes across as. But no less alluring would also be the spread of the natural magnificence that the capital in every sense of it lives up to as an expanse besotted with every hues of its summing up for itself a distinction decked up in the truest expressions of life as a whole. Typically characterised indeed by its donning of the pink salubriousness as deriving from the Asian aesthetics of the springtime cherry blossoms but equally endowed also with the splashes and strokes of virtually every color that nature comes resplendent in is the Seoul landscape of a fervor much fancied indeed.
Home to many an exciting trails of mountain trekking and hiking as well as of course the most spectacular facade of water that asserts as the Han River is the largest South Korean metropolis that also finds itself gloriously harbouring the pride of being home to the popularly visited premises of the Bukhansan National Park. Throw in also to this eclectic mix the attraction of quite some islands that double up even outside their physical features as locales in tremendous administrative and financial relevance and Seoul throws up a panoply of offerings in as many strands as there are entities that make up the world in its entirety. For a city so steeped in the dignity of its past and impeccably nestled as well within the bountiful of resources nature has amply bestowed it with, Seoul makes for a revelation irresistible indeed in all its classic and contemporary curatings of an identity that is idiosyncratic, pleasing and spectacular all at once.
For all its exhibition in grandeur though, Seoul relies also and draws upon heavily from the influence of the cutting edge in its technological innovation and scientific modernity to further manifest its place in prides galore. One of the world’s largest metropolitan cities as well as one of Asia’s most livable urban spaces in its aggregate in desirability of the many factors summing up the quality of life, the aura of Seoul is such that transcends every possible sphere of the existence imaginable. The continuing detailing in distinction continues to be as representative of the diversity that the city so embodies as part of itself, so exemplarily reflected in its attaining of such status as the 2010 World Design Capital for instance or a commendable mention in the Global Power City Index as well as the Global Financial Centres Index.
The international view tends to be as favourable as well for this city noted in its hinging on South Korea’s largest airport, the Incheon International Airport not just in its volume and spawn of operation but also in its best rating for nine consecutive years to establish in very global terms indeed the immense power and prestige of what is easily a world class capital city and also a destination par excellence. Beyond its meandering along the alleys dotted by prominent presences galore in tangibility, Seoul treads also as skilfully the terrains of the technological in many a significant servings of supremacy.
And thus this city of so many fortes and fortresses as well finds such descriptions in eminence as the world’s most wired city as well as a numero uno ranking in technological readiness and also commanding frequent mention as being among the world leaders in providing internet connectivity. And this by the way is just a chunk of what rounds up the entire Seoul identity as one definitely polycentric, emerging as it does as the economic, cultural, political, historical and administrative centre of the country of which it is the ‘deserving’ capital.
In its general eking out therefore of a space that so places it in esteemed holding, Seoul has by and large forever stood true to its long residing in the royal realms of history. That of course is a picture providing more than enough insight into a place so diametrically stretched in its conjuring up of realities as vividly unique as can be. But it also is in the specifics of its imaging that the ubiquitous South Korean capital of all literal translation outlines for itself such singularity that is no less impressive to say the least.
Dazzling in its brilliantly state of the art moulding out of glittering glasses and crafty concretes and shining steels is the Seoul cityscape that stands out in its combining of the aesthetics of beauty with the structured crafting in spectacularity to make for a world captivating in just about every encounter of it. Be it the recreation centre called the Lotte World housing in its precincts the world’s largest indoor theme park, or the country’s largest shopping mall known as the Times Square featuring this time the world’s largest 35mm permanent cinema screen, or Asia’s largest electronics market recognised as the Yongsan Electronics Market, or the Dongdaemun Design Plaza crucial to the design distinctiveness of Seoul, or the Starfield COEX Mall which again is the largest underground shopping mall in the world, the entire sprawl of the South Korean scape is one dotted with uniqueties galore. No doubt even in the local context the spread of the attractions is one striking enough but consider in truly global terms the fame of what the Seoulite phenomenon manifests as and the measure of its mount occurs as one inimitable indeed.
Standing in utmost impassableness its ground upon the curiously curated and created and the dignity of Seoul still reveals as one deeply devoted to its cruising through the course of history. Nurturing the pride of an entire era entailing to the Joseon identity are the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul namely Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung out of which the Changdeokgung Palace Complex commands special attention as being also one of the World Heritage Sites. Furthering this status in heritage distinction is yet another Joseon dynasty construct, that of the Royal Tombs remniscient indeed of times and existences as regal and noble as could be.
Equally significant in its stature of historical standing would be the Seoul City Wall, the fortress long shielding the Korean capital that emerges as as much an architectural specimen as it is a heritage structure and one that therefore happens to be also another of the UNESCO designated heritage sites. Summing up this substance in heritage dwelling that Seoul so proudly encompasses even today would be a structure furthering this time the reverence of the religious. As the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved, the Jongmyo shrine of once again Joseon links harbours a reputation that effectively combines a respect for the traditional with a regard for history shaping up thus as a tourist attraction prominent enough in not just the context of Seoul but arising out of more wholesome a Korean concern. Imbued hence with traits of what identifies as a holistic Korean character while continuing to pursue the trademark extravagance that Seoul flaunts not as much in its depiction as it does in its essence is yet another portrayal in majesticness of the capital literally, essentially and proudly multifarious in its existence.
In such exploration of the multitudes merged within the colossal Seoulite experience, it indeed is no less a wonder that the charm of this captivating city plays out as much and as appealingly across every single element of what makes it up. The singular identity of Seoul that makes for so massive a realisation to soak up, whether it be in its whopping conglomerate of a 115 museums of different shades and spirits or in its projection of the divine dimension through an array of religious buildings and shrines and temples each distinctive enough in the extent and range of their physical particulars as well as in spiritual reach, or allowing instead for the geographical characteristics of Seoul to take precedence like its mountainous and hilly landscape manifesting as one giant exposure in peak prettiness through identities each as recognisable in panoramic prominence in their rounding up as the main identities of Bugaksan and Inwangsan and Naksan and Namsan, or considering in fact the culinary capabilities nestled in this city in such capacities say the brand assertion of Jinro that by virtue of its dishing out the traditional beverage of Soju has acquired the status of producing the most sold alcoholic drink of the world, not to forget for sure the swashbuckling sweep of the newer Korean display in pop culture and numerous such exceptional endeavours that defies the constraints of time and space and universes perhaps, all through its expression as but a single city that though is the most important of course of the South Korean rendition, is what establishes so exceptionally well the premise of this revelation in global mannerism but one so ardently living through its native ideals in perfection that Seoul today finds more than accurate representation today as the truly special city that an entire nation of (south) Koreans regard with all their heart and soul and in all expressions of their songs and dances indeed! Seoul perhaps is signifying of a greater aspiration, one that stands for the world as much as it does for itself, and that which therefore bears more than enough potential to be the capital of the world in all its unconventional but signature evocation and corresponding evolution.