Information on the six biggest cities in South Korea known as Gwangyeoksi or "Metropolitian Cities"
The six biggest cities in Korea are classified as "Metropolitan cities" and have self-governing status equivalent to that of provinces. Seoul is the capital of the country and by far the most populous. Seoul has a distinct administrative label and since 1946 has been known as a "Special City".
Here's a list of the six largest cities in the country, ranging from the most populous to the least. For the locations of these cities, see the map page.
Seoul The gigantic capital of the country offers a hectic and fast paced city life. According to some estimates, Greater Seoul is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo being second in line. Almost half of the Korean population life in this area (and most others seem to long to live here). Seoul is one of the world's top ten financial and commercial centres and was
once named the world's sixth most powerful economic city. It's also boasts a technologically advanced infrastructure and is one of the world's most wired cities. In Seoul, foreigners are not treated as a scarce commodity; a unwanted label often afforded them elsewhere in the country, since the city by far has the largest foreign population of any city in Korea and even features a foreign suburb called Itaewon. Understandably, it remains the first choice of living for most foreign teachers and international workers.
Busan Busan is called the summer capital of Korea since it attracts tourists from all over the country to its six beaches. A favourite among foreigners, Busan is a coastal city located in the South of the country. As the second largest city in the country there are plenty of foreigners and foreigner hangouts here. Western food and foreign restaurants are easy to come by and the city even features a few International markets (though these often cater from South-east Asians and Russians). Busan has a well developed public transportation system which includes a large subway. During summer months, Haeundae Beach is a great attraction for locals and foreigners alike.
Daegu Known as the most conservative city in the country, people from Daegu are usually socially reserved, modest and patient. Traditionally Buddhism was strong and remains popular in the city with Christianity claiming a small support of a mere 7% of the population. Daegu is a political base for Korea's ruling Grand National Party and, according to Wikipedia: "As the largest city in the country beside Seoul not on a seacoast, and one of the major metropolitan areas in the nation, traits of Daegu residents in Korea are similar to those of Chicago in the United States, Birmingham in the United Kingdom." Daegu is also the hottest city in the country (and the only city where public school teachers are guaranteed an air conditioner with their housing!). Also lots of foreigners with a few bars famous as foreigner-hangouts.
One of my buddies made a pretty cool website for foreigners living in Daegu, with lots of links and information revelant for expats - see it here.
Incheon About an hour's drive from Seoul, Incheon is home to the International airport and serves as Korea's most important transportation hub. Incheon borders the capital and is thus regarded as part of the Greater Seoul metropolitan area. The Seoul and Incheon subways are also linked. In 2007 Incheon declared itself an "English city" with the intent to make Incheon as much a international city as Hong Kong or Singapore. This is for the ultimate purpose of establishing Incheon as a commercial and business hub of northeast Asia.
Gwangju Gwangju has a population of 1.4 Million and is most famous for a civil protest event in 1980, against oppressive an government regime. A protest which was brutally crushed and cost the lives of many Gwangju residents. Today Koreans often refer to Gwangju as "The Shine of Korean Democracy". Gwangju has a high number of students per household, which reflect the city's character as a home of education.
Daejon Daejon has a population of 1.5 Millions. Being known as the Silicon Valley of Korea, Daejeon is home of various private and public Research Institutes, Centres and Science parks. The city also houses the Korea Institute for Research and Technology which was ranked as the best Asian science and technology school by Asia week magazine in 2000. Within the city limits lies Daedeok Science Town, an area with more than 200 research institutions.
Ulsan Ulsan is the seventh largest metropolis with a population of over 1.1 Million. Ulsan is most famous as the industrial heartland of Korea since this is the city that houses the headquarters and factories for Hyundai Motor Company. In proportion to population, Ulsan is probably the richest city in the country due to the Hyundai presence. The city itself is clean and neat, though foreigners often complain of the air pollution due to the many factories and heavy industry presence.