Kaesong or Gaeseong[a] (Korean pronunciation: [kɛ.sʌŋ]) is a
North Hwanghae Province
North Hwanghae Province in the southern part of North Korea, a
former Directly Governed City, and the capital of
Korea during the
Taebong kingdom and subsequent
Goryeo dynasty. The city is near the
Kaesong Industrial Region
Kaesong Industrial Region close to the border with South
contains the remains of the
Manwoldae palace. Called Songdo while it
was the ancient capital of Goryeo, the city prospered as a trade
centre that produced Korean ginseng.
Kaesong now functions as the
DPRK's light industry centre.
During the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945, the city was known
by the Japanese pronunciation of its name, "Kaijō". Between 1945 and
Kaesong was under South Korean control. The 1953 Korean
Armistice Agreement left the city under North Korean control. It is
the only city to have changed hands from South to North Korean control
as a result of the armistice agreement. Due to the city's proximity to
the border with South Korea,
Kaesong has hosted cross-border economic
exchanges between the two countries as well as the jointly run Kaesong
As of 2009 the city had a population of 192,578.
1.2 20th century and beyond
3 Administrative divisions
8 Sister cities
9 People born in Kaesong
12 Further reading
13 External links
Kaesong in summer
The earliest archaeological signs of habitation in the
date from the Neolithic. Artifacts such as Jeulmun pottery, stone
ware, and stone axes have been excavated from Osongsan and Kaesong
Nasong, the double-walled fortress of Kaesong. As
Kaesong has been
occupied by various states throughout centuries, its name has changed.
It was in the realm of Mahan confederacy, and was referred to as
Busogap during the rule of Goguryeo. Before the strength of
retreated to the southwest of Jungnyeong, Mungyeong Saejae, and Asan
Bay in 475, the area had been a part of
Baekje for about 100 years.
However, it became a territory of Silla in 555, the 16th year of
Jinheung of Silla's reign, and its name was changed to Song'ak-gun
during the period. According to the Samguk Sagi, when a castle was
built in the site in 694, the third year of Hyoso of Silla's reign,
Kaesong was referred to as "Song'ak (송악; 松嶽)". Therefore, it
is assumed that the name Song'ak had been used at least before the
Silla began to decline in late 9th century, and a period of rival
warlords ensued. In 898,
Kaesong fell under the hand of Gung Ye, the
founder of his short-lived state, Taebong, and then became a part of
Goryeo in 919 by its founder, Wang Geon, who was enthroned as Taejo of
Goryeo. Taejo established the capital in the south of Song'ak, and
Kaesong into Song'ak under the name of "Gaeju". In 919,
Kaesong became the national capital. In 960, the 11th year of
Gwangjong of Goryeo's reign, the city was renamed Gaegyeong, and in
995, the 14th year of Seonjong of Goryeo's reign, it was elevated to
"Gaesong-bu". The Gaeseong-bu is a combined term of Song'ak-gun, and
Gaesong-gun, which is different from the region of the pre-1945
Gaesong-ri, Seo-myeon, Kaepung-gun. In 1010, the first year of
Hyeonjong of Goryeo's reign, the palace and houses were almost burnt
down during the second conflict in the Goryeo–Khitan War, so in
1018, Gaesong-bu was relegated for the "bu" system, and became to
govern the three hyeon unites of Jeongju, Deoksu, and Gangeum.
In the late 12th century, there was instability in both the government
and the countryside. A slave named Manjǒk (or spelled as Manjeok)
(만적; 萬積) led a group of slaves who gathered outside
1198. The revolt plot was suppressed by Choe Chung-heon. When Yi
Goryeo in 1392 and established the
Joseon as Taejo
of Joseon, he moved the Korean capital from
Kaesong to Hanyang
(modern-day Seoul) in 1394.
20th century and beyond
A view towards the modern center of Kaesong, as seen towards the south
from near the top of Mount Janam.
Kim Il Sung
Kim Il Sung statue in Kaesong, as it appeared in October 2012. The
statue has since been updated and a statue of
Kim Jong Il
Kim Jong Il has been
added next to the
Kim Il Sung
Kim Il Sung statue.
Kaesŏng remained a part of
Gyeonggi Province until the Korean War.
Korea was partitioned at the 38th parallel after World War II,
Kaesong was on the southern side of the line (within South Korea).
However, the battle of Kaesong-Munsan was won by the Korean People's
Army (KPA) in the first days of the Korean War. The city was
recaptured by UN Forces on 9 October 1950 during the pursuit of the
KPA that followed the successful Inchon landings. UN Forces abandoned
the city 16 December 1950 during the withdrawal to the Imjin River
following the Chinese
People's Volunteer Army
People's Volunteer Army intervention in the war.
Kaesong would remain under Chinese/North Korean control until the end
of the war.
Ceasefire negotiations began in
Kaesong on 10 July 1951, but were
Panmunjom on 25 October 1951. The Korean Armistice Agreement
signed on 27 July 1953 recognised North Korean control over Kaesong
making it the only city to change control from South
Korea to North
Korea as a result of the war. Postwar
Kaesong and the part of Kyonggi
Province that came to be occupied was organized into "Kaesŏng Region"
(Kaesŏng Chigu; 개성 지구; 開城 地區). In 1955, Kaesŏng
became a "Directly Governed City" (Kaesŏng Chikhalsi; 개성
직할시; 開城 直轄市). In 2002, Kaesŏng Industrial Region was
formed from part of Kaesŏng. In 2003, the remaining part of Kaesŏng
(excluding the Industrial Region) became part of North Hwanghae
Province. The city is close to the Demilitarized Zone that divides
North and South Korea.
See also: Geography of North Korea
Mountains of Kaesong
Located in the center of Korea,
Kaesong is the southernmost city of
North Korea. It is bordered by Kaepung, Changpung, Panmun, and Kumchon
Kanghwa Island of
Incheon Municipality lies just south,
beyond a narrow channel. It covers an area of 1,309 km², the
urban district is surrounded by Songak (Songak-san; 송악산;
松嶽山) (489 m) and Pongmyong mountains. The city center
surrounds the much smaller Mt. Janam (103 m), on which is located
the city's iconic
Kim Il Sung
Kim Il Sung statue.
In the northern part of Kaesong, the end of the Ahobiryŏng range
creates the northernmost border of
Kaesong City. This range consists
of Mts. Chŏnma (757 m), Sŏnggŏ, Myoji (764 m), Suryong (716 m),
Chesŏk (749 m), Hwajang (558 m), and Ogwan. With the exception of the
mountainous northeastern region, however, most areas of Kaesong
consist of low hills with the height less than 100 meters.
Imjin River flows along the northeastern border line of the city
Ryesong River (禮成江) (Ryeseong-gang; 례성강)
(transliterated in South
Korea as Yeseong-gang; 예성강) runs along
the western border to the mouth of the Han River. In addition to the
two rivers, small and large rivers and streams such as the Samich'ŏn,
Wŏlamch'ŏn, Chukbaech'ŏn, Kŭmsŏngch'ŏn, and Sach'ŏn rivers
drain into the Han. The river basin located in the southwest of
Kaesong has spacious alluvial plains such as P'ungdŏkbŏl,
Singwangbŏl, and Samsŏngbŏl.
The geology consists of the Proterozoic, Cenozoic, and Paleozoic
Mesozoic intrusive granite. The underground resources
include gold, zinc, copper, fluorspar, limestone, granite, and kaolin.
The soil comprises generally brown forest soil while the areas drained
by Yesŏng, Imjin, and Han rivers consist of mostly alluvial and
saline soil. The climate is generally warm and moderate, with an
average annual temperature of around 10 ℃. The coldest month is
January, with an average temperature of −5.9 ℃, while the
hottest month is August, with an average temperature of 24.7 ℃.
The average annual rainfall ranges from 1,300 to 1,400 millimeters.
The duration of frost-free period is 180 days—the longest in North
Korea. About 55% of
Kaesong is forested (80% of the trees are pines),
and 40 species of mammals and 250 birds inhabit the area.
Kaesong has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate
classification: Dwa), with cold, dry winters and hot, humid summers
with abundant rainfall.
Climate data for Kaesong
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Before 2002, Kaesŏng Directly Governed City was divided into one city
(Kaesŏng itself) and three counties;
Changpung County, Changpung
County and Panmunjom. In 2003, P'anmun-gun and part of Kaesŏng-si
were separated from Kaesŏng Directly Governed City and merged to form
Kaesong Industrial Region. The remaining part of Kaesŏng joined North
Hwanghae Province in 2002.
Kaesong is currently divided into 24
administrative districts known as Dong, as well as three villages
Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cultural: ii, iii
2013 (37th Session)
The Koryo Museum
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Koryo Museum (Kaesong).
Koryo Songgyungwan University
Koryo Songgyungwan University (Light Industry), Communist University
and Art College are located in Kaesŏng. The Koryo Museum, housed in
the city's old Confucian academy, contains many priceless
and cultural relics (although many are copies, with the originals held
in the vaults of the
Korean Central History Museum
Korean Central History Museum in Pyongyang). As
the former capital of Goryeo, the tombs of almost all of the Goryeo
kings are located in the area, though most are not accessible; the
heavily reconstructed Tomb of King Wanggon, belonging to the dynasty's
founder, Taejo of Goryeo, is located to the west of the city in
Kaepung-gun. Other notable tombs include those of kings Hyejong of
Goryeo (the Sollung Royal Tomb), Gyeongjong of
Goryeo (Yongrung Royal
Tomb), Seongjong of
Goryeo (Kangrung Royal Tomb), Hyeonjong of Goryeo
(Sollung Royal Tomb), Munjong of
Goryeo (Kyongrung Royal Tomb), and
Goryeo (Tomb of King Kongmin).
Kaesong also contains North
Korea's only two royal tombs dating to the Joseon: the Hurung Royal
Tomb, belonging to the dynasty's second king, Jeongjong of Joseon, and
the Cherung Royal Tomb, containing the remains of Queen Sinui, wife of
the dynasty's founder, Yi Songgye (Taejo of Joseon). The two final
tombs, despite belonging to members of the
Joseon royal family, were
excluded from the
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site "Royal Tombs of the Joseon
Dynasty because of their location in North Korea.
See also: Korean regional cuisine
A meal for visitors at Tongil restaurant, Kaesong
Kaesong was the capital of
Goryeo with 487 years of rule, its
culinary culture was highly developed. The luxurious style of Kaesong
cuisine is frequently compared with those of
Seoul cuisine and Jeolla
Kaesong cuisine was traditionally treated as part of
Gyeonggi cuisine, since
Kaesong belonged to
Gyeonggi Province until
1950. However, it has been incorporated into the administration of
North Korea after the
Korean War while
Gyeonggi Province is in South
Korea. Bossam kimchi (wrapped kimchi), pyeonsu (square-shaped summer
mandu), sinseollo (royal casserole), seolleongtang (beef tripe
soup), chueotang (mudfish soup), joraengi tteokguk (rice cake soup),
umegi (tteok covered with syrup), and gyeongdan (ball-shaped tteok)
Kaesong dishes. Umegi, also called
Kaesong juak, is
a holiday food of Kaesong, and known for the delicate style with the
sweet and nutty taste. The dish is made by kneading a mixture of rice
flour and glutinous rice flour with warm water, by shaping the dough
into balls with either one pine nut or jujube, by frying and coating
them with syrup.
Kaesong Industrial Region
With its topography, climate and soil,
Kaesong has advantageous
natural conditions for agricultural productions. The water supply
system is established with 18 reservoirs, including Songdo Reservoir,
built for agricultural advances and about 150 pumping stations as well
as hundreds of dammed pools. The cultivated land accounts for 27% of
Kaesong's area. Rice, maize, soybeans, wheat, and barley are the main
crops. Among them, rice production accounts for 60% of the whole grain
Kaepung and Panmun are the two primary regions,
producing more than 70% of the rice production. In addition, vegetable
and fruit cultivation including peach, apple and persimmon, livestock
farming, and sericulture are active. Peach is a local specialty of
Kaesong, especially white peach, which accounts for more than 25% of
the total fruit production. The counties of Kaepung-gun and Panmun-gun
are also known for cultivating the quality Korean ginseng called
Kaesŏng is DPRK’s light industry centre. The urban district is
equipped with a jewel processing factory, ginseng processing factory
and an embroidery factory. Since the
Kaesong had been a center of handcrafts such as
Goryeo ware and
commerce while the textile industry has been the primary business
along with the production of grocery goods, daily general goods, and
ginseng products after the division into the two states. The food
processing industry ranks next to the textile business, mainly
producing jang (soybean-based condiments), oil, canned foods,
alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and others. In addition, resin,
timber, handicrafts, pottery, shoes, school supplies, musical
instruments, and glass are produced.
Kaesong has factories for
producing agricultural machines and tractor repair.
As of 2002, the city contained the headquarters of the Central Bank of
North Korea, with branches also in Kapung and Panmun counties.
The DPRK and South
Korea jointly operate an industrial complex in the
Kaesong Industrial Region. The industrial park, built around 2005,
employs over 53,400 North Koreans at over 120 South Korean textile and
other labor-intensive factories. In early 2013, approximately 887
South Koreans worked in the complex, which produced an estimated $470
million of goods in 2012, and the complex employed a sixth of
Kaesong's working people.
Amid tensions in 2013, the industrial park was temporarily closed. It
was closed again in 2016.
See also: Tourism in North Korea
A side street in Kaesong
Kaesong is a major destination for foreign visitors to North Korea.
Many Goryeo-era sites are located in Kaesong, including the Kaesong
Namdaemun gate, the
Songgyungwan Confucian Academy, now the Koryo
Museum, and the
Sonjuk Bridge and Pyochung Pavilion. Less-known sites
include Kwandok Pavilion, the ruined Goryeo-era
Anhwa Temple, Sungyang Hall, Mokchong Hall, and the Kaesong
Chomsongdae (개성 첨성대; 開城 瞻星臺) observatory. Located
to the west of the city are the tombs of Kings Kongmin and Wanggon;
twenty-four km north of
Kaesong is Taehungsan Fortress, a Koguryo
satellite fortress built to protect Pyongyang. This castle contains
the Kwanum and Taehung Temples. The famous Pakyon Falls are located in
the area, as well as a large, recently discovered Goryeo-era Buddha
carved into the stone on Mt. Chonma. Most tourists to
Kaesong are put
in the traditional
Kaesong Folk Hotel, housed in 19 traditional hanok
Sungkyunkwan, one kilometer north of Seonjukgyo bridge is a
representative traditional educational institution in Kaesong. It was
founded in the neighborhood of Gukja-dong with the name Gukjagam
(국자감; 國子監) in 992 during the reign of King Seongjong of
Goryeo, which ignited Korean Confucianism. Its name was changed to
Gukhak (국학; 國學) in the reign of Chungnyeol of
Goryeo and was
referred to as Seonggyungwan. In 1367, the 16th year of Gongmin of
Goryeo's reign, the structure was revamped and Yi Saek, and Jeong
Mong-ju, Confucian scholars of the time taught there as professors. In
1592, the 25th year of Seonjo of Joseon's reign,
Kim Yuk reconstructed
the institution which was burned down by the Japanese during the
Japanese invasions of
The first modern school that appeared in
Kaesong was Hanyeong Seowon
(한영서원; 韓英書院), or Anglo-Korean School established by
Yun Chi-ho in 1906, with the help of American missionary Mr. Wasson,
and Mr. Candler. It obtained authorization as Songdo High School from
Korea in 1917, and expanded to the Songdo School
Foundation in 1950 with the accreditation for the establishment of
Songdo Middle School and Songdo College of Pharmacy, the latter of
which produced 40 graduates. However, when the
Korean War occurred,
the foundation was moved to Incheon, and reconstructed Songdo Middle
and High Schools in 1953 which still exist to the present.
As of 2002,
Kaesong had 80 each public elementary schools which
scattered in each unit of ri (village), 60 middle-high schools, 3
colleges and 3 universities such as Songdo University of Politics,
Kaesong University of Education, and
Kaesong Communist University.
Police handling traffic in Kaesong
Kaesŏng is connected to
Pyongyang and other cities by rail and
highways. The city's main railway station is
Kaesong Station, which is
on the Pyongbu Line.
People born in Kaesong
Uicheon (1055–1191), founder of the
Cheontae Buddhist sect
Choe Chung-hon (1149–1219), a military ruler of
Korea during the
Choe U (died 1249), general of the Goryeo, son of Choe Chung-Hon
Hwang Hui (1363–1452), prime minister of Joseon
Hwang Jin-i (1515–1550), famous
Kisaeng and poet
K. W. Lee (1928–), Korean-American print journalist
Won Pyong Oh (1926–), South Korean zoologist
Chin Byung Ho (1909–1972), Dean of
Seoul National University Medical
North Korea portal
^ In the 19th century,
Kaesong was also spelled Kaï-seng.
^ EB (1878), p. 390.
^ "City population by sex, city and city type". United Nations. 2009.
^ a b c d e f "개성시 開城市 (Kaesong)" (in Korean). Nate/
Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Archived from the original on
^ Michael J. Seth. A concise history of Korea: from the neolithic
period through the nineteenth century. pp. 99–102. Rowman &
^ Voice of Korea. "Bronze statues of great
Kim Il Sung
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
Kaesong City" – via Internet Archive.
^ a b c "개성직할시 자연환경 (Nature of Kaesong)" (in
Korean)). Nate / Britannica. Archived from the original on
2011-06-10. CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
Kaesong - Climate-Data.org". Retrieved 5 November
^ "개성시(開城市) – KAESONGSI".
JoongAng Ilbo (in
^ a b 향토음식 鄕土飮食 [Hyangto eumsik] (in Korean).
Nate/Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Archived from the original on
^ 편수 (Pyeonsu) Archived 2011-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. (in
Korean) Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean Culture
^ 닮은 듯 색다른 매력을 간직한 북한의 음식 문화 (in
Korea Knowledge Portal. 2009-06-19. Archived from the
original on 2011-10-09.
^ a b "개성직할시 산업과 교통 (Industry and transport of
Kaesong)" (in Korean). Nate / Britannica. Archived from the original
^ a b Choe Sang-Hun (March 27, 2013). "
North Korea Shuts Last Military
Hot Lines to South". nytimes.com. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
^ a b Choe Sang-Hun and Gerry Mullany (March 30, 2013). "North Korea
Threatens to Close Factory It Runs With South". nytimes.com. Retrieved
March 30, 2013.
^ Alastair Gale and Jeyup S. Kwaak (26 April 2013). "
Seoul to Pull
Workers out of North Korea". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 April
^ 개성직할시 교육과 문화 (Education and Culture of Kaesong)
Archived 2011-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. (in Korean) Nate /
^ "Ciudades Hermanas" [Sister Cities] (in Spanish). Municipalidad del
Cusco. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 23
^ ":: 모바일 서울대학교병원 ::". m.snuh.org.
"Corea", Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. VI, New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878, pp. 390–394 .
Dormels, Rainer. North Korea's Cities: Industrial facilities, internal
structures and typification. Jimoondang, 2014.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kaesong.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kaesong.
Gaeseong Industrial District Foundation Foreign Investment Support
German website about the City of Kaesong
North Korea opens hidden city to tourists." BBC News. Friday 7
City profile of Kaesong
Historical Remains in
Kaesong picture album at Naenara
Another picture album at Naenara
Kaesong at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Capital of Korea
Cities in North Korea
Directly governed city
Cities with special status
Regions and administrative divisions of North Korea
Special administrative regions
Coordinates: 37°58′N 126°33′E / 37.967°N 126.550°E /