Seoul has been continuously settled for over 2,000 years since it was first founded in 18 B.C. by the Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The city also remained as the capital of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire. During the Japanese colonization of Korea in the early 20th century, Seoul became known as Gyeongseong.
In 1945, Korea gained its independence from Japan and the city was renamed Seoul. In 1949, the city separated from Gyeonggi Province and it became a “special city,” but in 1950, North Korean troops occupied the city during the Korean War and the entire city was nearly destroyed. On March 14, 1951, the United Nations forces took control of Seoul. Since then, the city has rebuilt and grown considerably.
Today, Seoul is still considered a special city, or a direct-controlled municipality, in that it as a city has a status equal to that of a province. This means that it has no provincial government controlling it. Rather, the federal government of South Korea controls it directly.
Because of its very long history of settlement, Seoul is home to a number of historic sites and monuments. The Seoul National Capital Area has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Changdeokgung Palace Complex, the Hwaseong Fortress, the Jongmyo Shrine, and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.