The 600th Year of Gyeonggi-do

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Gyeonggi-do Humanistic Environment, Natural Environment/Significance of Gyeonggi-do’s 600 Years

Gyeonggi-do Humanistic Environment

The name ‘Gyeonggi’ was first used to designate the province in 1018 (the 9th year of the reign of King Hyeonjong of the Goryeo Dynasty). Gyeonggi-do assumed its present form in 1414 (the 14th year of the reign of King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty), and has remained an important region of Korea ever since. Located in the middle of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeonggi-do has played an important role as a key region in Korean history, as it connects south and north of the peninsula by sea and land, has fertile lands, and enjoys a moderate climate.

In the 1st century B.C., the Baekje Kingdom established its capital in the southern part of Seoul, and Gyeonggi-do Province has remained a politically important area ever since. The three ancient kingdoms of Baekje, Goguryeo, and Silla competed fiercely for the Hangang River basin, as it was clear that whichever state occupied the river and the surrounding territory first would gain control of the country.

Goryeo, the dynasty which first united the entire peninsula as a single nation, established its capital in Gaeseong, which is situated in Gyeonggi-do Province. During the Goryeo Dynasty, Gyeonggi-do was called ‘the base of all directions’, and the idea that the ‘king’s edification comes before everything else’ played an essential role in establishing a united country based on the history and culture of the Korean people.

Gyeonggi-do was restructured when the Joseon Dynasty established its new capital in Hanyang and began to evolve as a center of economy, society, culture, and ideas. The province was also a gateway for invasion by foreign powers and a foothold of resistance, and played a role as the capital during the end of the Korean Empire and the Japanese occupation. Gyeonggi-do has seen many changes in recent decades including a huge increase in its population and the formation of a major industrial zone.

Since Korea’s liberation in 1945, Gyeonggi-do, as the driving force behind Korea’s industrialization, has played a major role in supporting Seoul economically. Gyeonggi-do, which has been the center and mainstream of the country, and on the other hand, as the periphery of Seoul, embraced both the developments and contradictions of the modernization process. The Gyeonggi-do of the 21st century is the heart of Korea’s knowledge, production, consumption, and networks, and is situated in the middle of Northeast Asia, which now accounts for an important share of the global economy. Gyeonggi-do is implementing detailed plans and initiatives with the aim of becoming ‘Global Inspiration Gyeonggi-do.’

Gyeonggi-do is home to 12.55 million people (as of the end of 2013), making it the most populous metropolitan city in South Korea, overtaking Seoul. Gyeonggi-do’s population accounts for 24.1% of the total population of South Korea, with a population density of 1,234 people/㎢. The increase in population led to urbanization and the reorganization and amalgamation of the administrative areas of Gyeonggi-do.
Gyeonggi-do Province consists of twenty-eight cities, three counties, twenty districts, and 550 administrative units (i.e. eup, myeon, and dong).

The province, which covers the western central region of the Korean Peninsula, covers 10,172㎢ or 10.2% of South Korea’s territory. Of the total area of the province, 100% of the capital regional adjustment zone is under regulation, while 23.2% of the protection zone of military installations, and 11.6% of the restricted development zone. Gyeonggi-do has 413 km of coastline to the west, and is bordered by 86km of the cease-fire line to the north, Gangwon-do Province to the east, and North and South Chungcheong-do Provinces to the south, while Seoul is situated at its center.

As we as being the major driver of national economic growth, Gyeonggi-do is a new growth engine for the future based on high-tech industry. Gyeonggi-do is the base of 20.8% (720,000 companies) of all Korean enterprises and home to 23.9% (6,170,000 people) of the economically active population, occupying an important position in terms of production, exports, and employment. As of 2012, Gyeonggi-do’s GRDP (Gross Regional Domestic Product) amounted to KRW 250.9 trillion, or 20.8% of the national total. In particular, Gyeonggi-do’s mining and manufacturing businesses account for 23% of the national total, the highest proportion among metropolitan cities.

Natural Environment of Gyeonggi-do

As Gyeonggi-do is located on the Gyeonggi Landmass in terms of the Korean Peninsula’s tectonic structure, the region has a wide distribution of Precambrian metamorphic rocks. Mesozoic granite is distributed in a bell-like pattern in the north and south of Gyeonggi-do. Generally, the widespread erosion of granite led to both the formation of lowland areas like Yeoju and Icheon, and the emergence of high peaks like Bukhansan Mountain. Basalt is also found along the river valley of the Hantangang River.

The topography of Gyeonggi-do Province, as a tilted landform, is generally high in the east and low in the west. Three mountain ranges, i.e. the Masingnyeong, Gwangju, and Charyeong Mountain Ranges, extend northeast to southwest. The Masingnyeong Mountain Range forms a boundary between Hwanghae-do Province and Gyeonggi-do Province, while the Gwangju Mountain Range crosses the center of Gyeonggi-do. Gungmangbong (1,168m) and Unaksan Mountain (935m) in Gapyeong, Cheonmasan Mountain (812m) in Namyangju, and Namhansan Mountain (606m) in Gwangju are part of the Gwangju Mountain range. The Charyeong Mountain Range forms a boundary between Gyeonggi-do Province and North Chungcheong Province, and includes some five hundred mountains such as Ogapsan Mountain (609m) in South Yeoju, and Chilhyeonsan Mountain (513m) and Seounsan Mountain (543m) in Anseong. Furthermore, Incheon’s Gyeyangsan Mountain (395m), Gimpo’s Munsusan Mountain (376m), and Anyang’s Surisan Mountain (475m) and other monadnocks are situated on the low hilly areas around the west coast and the plains.

The plains developed along the mainstreams and branches of the Hangang River, Imjingang River, and Anseongcheon Stream. The Munsan Plain on the lower Imjingang River, the Gimpo Plain and Goyang Plain on the lower Hangang River, and the Pyeongtaek Plain on Anseongcheon Stream are Korea’s major plains.

Much of Gyeonggi-do Province is situated in the Hangang River basin. The two major branches of the Hangang River, the Bukhangang River and the Namhangang River, come together at Yangsu-ri, Yangpyeong-gun. The river crosses the center of Gyeonggi-do Province, merges with the Imjingang River in the northwest, and flows into Gyeonggi Bay on the Yellow Sea. As the Hangang has always had a liberal flow of water, it was also used as a waterway for the transportation of agricultural and fishery products from the plain in the lower river basin to the capital, Seoul, during the Joseon Dynasty.

At present, the Hangang River, as the main source of water in the capital area’s water supply zone, supplies water to cities in the Hangang River basin including Seoul, Uijeongbu, Goyang, Bucheon, Anyang, and Gwacheon; to the west coast region including Incheon, Siheung, and Ansan; and to the Anseongcheon Stream basin including Suwon and Pyeongtaek. The Imjingang River converges with the Hantangang River and Yeongpyeongcheon Stream around Jeongok, and with Munsancheon Stream in the downstream area, then joins the Hangang River before flowing into Gyeonggi Bay. Anseongcheon Stream has a narrow area of the basin, but it forms Asan Lake together with the confluence of Hwanggujicheon Stream, Jinwicheon Stream, and Anseongcheon’s branch and flows into the Asan Bay.

Gyeonggi Bay has an indented coastline and includes numerous coves, peninsulas, and islands. The major islands of Gyeonggi-do Province include Pungdo and Yukdo Islands in Ansan, and Jebudo, Gukhwado, and Ipado Island in Hwaseong. The province has five inhabited islands and fifty-two uninhabited islands. Gyeonggi Bay has a large tidal range and a sinuous coastline as well as many islands. As large rivers and streams - such as the Hangang, Imjingang, and Anseongcheon - discharge a great amount of sediment, broad tidelands have developed in Gyeonggi Bay.

Gyeonggi’s coastal tidelands cover about 1,000㎢, accounting for about 37% of the total in Korea. Its representative tidelands are Gwanghwa Tideland, Incheon Tideland, Sihwa Tideland, and Namyang Tideland. In the past, reclamation projects were carried out for the development of farmland and salt farms; however, a project to build a coastal industrial complex is currently under way.

Significance of Gyeonggi-do’s 600 Years

Gyeonggi-do marked the 600th year of its establishment in 2014. The origins of Gyeonggi-do Province as an administrative and regional entity go back to January 18, 1414 (the 14th year of the reign of King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty), when the original name of the area ‘Gyeonggi jwaudoseong’ was changed to ‘Gyeonggi’ (Annals of King Taejong: Volume 27) Thus, the current region of Gyeonggi-do was established 600 years ago when the early Joseon Dynasty reformed the regional administration into an eight-province system.

Originally, Gyeong meant a ‘capital where the king resides’ and Gi ‘the area surrounding the capital’. Therefore, the location of the Gyeonggi-do was changed according to capital of the time.

During the Goryeo Dynasty when the name Gyeonggi first appeared, Gaeseong was the capital of the dynasty, so the area surrounding Gaeseong was known as Gyeonggi. As the Joseon Dynasty superseded the Goryeo Dynasty in 1392 and established its capital in Hanyang (the old name for Seoul) in 1394, Gyeonggi’s location was also changed. Thereafter, Gyeonggi-do became firmly established in its present location surrounding Seoul.

The reorganization of the area now named Gyeonggi-do region took place following the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty. As the location of the new capital was moved southward, the northern area of Gaeseong became part of Hwanghae-do Province because it was far from Hanyang, while Gwangju, Suwon, Yanggeun (an old town in Yangpyeong-gun County), Yonggu (the old name for North Yongin), Cheoin (the old name for South Yongin), and Icheon – all of which used to belong to Yanggwang-do Province - became areas of Gyeonggi-do.

In 1398 (the 7th year of the reign of King Taejo), Chungcheong-do’s Jinwi (present-day North Pyeongtaek) was merged with Gyeonggi-do, while in 1402 (the 2nd year of the reign of King Taejong), Gyeonggi jwaudo was renamed as Gyeonggi jwaudoseong. Then, in 1413, some areas of Gyeonggi-do were re-merged with Hwanghae-do and Gangwon-do Provinces, while Chungcheong-do Province’s Anseong and Yangji (present-day South Yongin area) and Gangwon-do Province’s Gapyeong were made part of Gyeonggi-do. During the reign of King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty, Cheorwon and Anhyeop (present-day area of Icheon) became part of Gangwon-do Province, while Juksan in Chungcheong-do became part of Gyeonggi-do.

As a result of these successive reforms of the administrative areas, Gyeonggi-do was composed of small and large counties and towns based on Hanyang, the capital of the Joseon Dynasty, and the Hangang and Imjingang rivers.
Furthermore, the Gyeonggi-do region positioned itself at the heart of national politics and established itself as a logistics base. As the strongly centralized Goryeo and Joseon kingdoms focused on the state finances by collecting taxes throughout the country and redistributing them to the regions, the Gyeonggi-do has been a hub of logistics and land and marine transportation since the Goryeo Dynasty.

The Gyeonggi-do has long been a focal point of cultural integration. During the Three Kingdoms Period, the region was connected with the diverse cultures of the three main kingdoms on the peninsula via the Hangang River. In the early Goryeo period, as the regional cultures of powerful clans developed, the Gyeonggi-do became a center of integration by embracing and overcoming differences. The Goryeo Dynasty established a centralized state system while accepting the autonomy of each regional entity, and local figures from Gyeonggi-do served as leaders of the state at that time.

Regarding the language, culture, and customs, the Giho Cultural Area was formed with the provinces of Hwanghae-do, Chungcheong-do, and Gyeonggi-do as the center. In the 16th century the Giho Group of Neo-Confucianism played an active part in Gyeonggi-do, while during the 18th century the doctrines of Yangmingism and Silhak, which were highly critical of and tried to overcome Neo-Confucianism, were very popular. One particular school of Silhak composed of members with the same academic views, including Yi Ik in Ansan, Yu Hyeong-won in Suwon, An Jeong-bok in Gwangju, and Jeong Yak-yong in Namyangju, was formed in the area close to Seoul and led the development of the national culture while dominating the world of ideas during the late Joseon period.

Gyeongg-do, as the main gateway into Korea of 19th century imperialism and the open-door policy, strongly resisted foreign influences and fought throughout the region to recover the country from crisis. Under the Japanese Colonial Rule, when Seoul lost its sovereignty as the nation’s capital, Gyeonggi-do played a central role as a capital. As Gyeonggi-do’s population increased and the markets for consumer goods expanded, demand for labor was easily met and the Gyeongin Industrial Complex was established.

At that time Gyeonggi-do included Seoul (then known as Gyeongseongbu), so the Gyeonggi Provincial Government Building was located in front of Gwanghwamun Gate in Seoul. In 1946, however, Seoul was separated from Gyeonggi-do and became Seoul Metropolitan City. In 1967, the Gyeonggi Provincial Government Building was relocated to Suwo-si.

Almost immediately after its liberation from Japanese colonial rule, Korea was plunged into chaos due to the unexpected division of the country and civil war. The Gyeonggi-do became a fierce battlefield of the Korean War and paid an enormous sacrifice in life and property. Since the ceasefire, Gyeonggi-do has become the symbolic region of national division due to its close proximity to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) dividing South Korea from the North.

Gyeonggi-do, together with Seoul, played a key role in the economic development of the country during the process of industrialization. Along with the construction of the transport network, the rapid industrialization led to the formation of the ‘capital area’ followed by a large increase in its population and the consequent urbanization. However, industrialization and urbanization also had many undesirable side effects including the unequal distribution of regional and national development. In addition, Gyeonggi-do, as the region surrounding Seoul, was saddled with numerous overlapping regulations. At this time, Gyeonggi-do lost its independent status and displayed what may be termed a Seoul-dependent phenomenon.

Gyeonggi-do, together with Seoul, played a key role in the economic development of the country during the process of industrialization. Along with the construction of the transport network, the rapid industrialization led to the formation of the ‘capital area’ followed by a large increase in its population and the consequent urbanization. However, industrialization and urbanization also had many undesirable side effects including the unequal distribution of regional and national development. In addition, Gyeonggi-do, as the region surrounding Seoul, was saddled with numerous overlapping regulations. At this time, Gyeonggi-do lost its independent status and displayed what may be termed a Seoul-dependent phenomenon.

Gyeonggi-do, characterized by tragic stories of war and division, has taken on the important mission of leading the age of unification through reconciliation and cooperation. Gyeonggi-do needs to play an active role in inter-Korean reconciliation, exchange, and economic cooperation at the provincial level. Moreover, Gyeonggi-do has established the nation’s telecommunication and IT infrastructure, essential pre-requisites for the 21st-century knowledge-based industry, and has the potential to grow as Northeast Asia’s leading logistics hub. The West Coast Era (centered on Gyeonggi Bay and the surrounding coastline) is already on track, and if the mood of inter-Korean exchange leads to national reconciliation, Gyeonggi-do, as the center of a unified Korea and the base of the Northeast Asian economic area, will be able to make its slogan ‘Global Inspiration Gyeonggi-do’ a reality.

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Credits: Story

600 Years of Gyeonggi-do

Planning | Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Organization | The Center for Gyeonggi Studies, Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties
Co-authors | Jingap Gang(professor at Gyeonggi University
Jonghyuk Kim(professor at Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University)
Sangdae Lee(head of Future Vision Department at Gyeonggi Research Institute)
Jihoon Lee(senior researcher at Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties)
Hyungho Jung(cultural properties specialist at Cultural Heritage Administration)
Project support | Taeyong Kim, Seoyeon Choi, Youngdae Kim, Hakseong Lee, Sohyun Park, Hyungmo Seong, Hogyun Kim, Kyeongmin Kim, Sujin Jo(PR & Marketing Team, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation)

For the celebration of Gyeonggi's 600 years(1414-2014), this exhibition is organized based on 『Gyeonggi-do 600 years』 which was published to remind us of the valuable history of Gyeonggi-do and encourage us to work further towards Korean reunification.

ⒸGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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