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Tracing the Past of Yongsan, Dragon Mountain

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

This is a photo from my cousin's office accoss the street from Yongsan Station. Yongsan is most famous for (according to me) where HYBE (BTS's label) is located. To be honest, the only thing I knew about Yongsan was that fact and the fact that the current Korean president moved his office from the Blue House to Yongsan.

The office was actually right next door to HYBE so of course I had to go see it. I didn't go into the lobby because I was afraid a red light would beam on me and some alarm would go off. But, I took this photo of the outside.

It was Jimin's birthday month so there were celebrations everywhere.

Yongsan is a district of Seoul. When I started researching the district, I found so much history on it. It was hard to figure out where to start and what to write down. Being from America, it's hard to imagine that the place that I am standing in has such a long history. (Of course, America's native lands also have a long rich history but unfortunately it's not taught to us.)

Yongsan's history dates back to the ancient Korean kingdoms, originally a part of the Baekje Kingdom (18 BCE – 660 CE) and later became part of the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 BCE – 668 CE).

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), Yongsan was known for its strategic location as it borders the Han River. It housed military facilities to defend the capital, Hanyang (now Seoul), from external threats. Yongsan means "Dragon Mountain" in Korean, and the name is believed to have originated from the dragon-shaped ridge in the area.

Yongsan played a significant role during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The Japanese established military facilities in the district, including a military railway, which further solidified its importance.

After World War II, Yongsan became a major center for the United States military during the Korean War (1950–1953). The U.S. Army established a base known as Yongsan Garrison, which became a key hub for American military operations in the region.

In the post-Korean War era, Yongsan continued to host the U.S. military presence as South Korea and the United States continued their strong alliance. The Yongsan Garrison remained a symbol of the close relationship between the two nations.

In the early 2000s, plans began to relocate the U.S. military presence in Yongsan to the area south of Seoul. The Yongsan Garrison officially closed in 2018, marking the end of a significant chapter in the district's history.

With the closure of the military base, Yongsan is undergoing a massive urban redevelopment project called the Yongsan International Business District (YIBD). The project aims to transform the area into a modern, high-tech business and residential district.

The decision to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan, guided by the advice of a shaman, adds a fascinating layer to the district's contemporary narrative.

Today, Yongsan has a diverse and international community, thanks in part to the historical presence of the U.S. military and the ongoing redevelopment projects. This diversity creates a welcoming environment for foreigners, with various cultural events, international schools, and expat-friendly services.

As the district continues to evolve, propelled by its rich past and the aspirations of its present, Yongsan stands as a living testament to the resilience and adaptability of a place that has seen the ebb and flow of centuries.

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