The Republic of Korea, once known as the "Land of the Morning Calm," is now the world’s 11th largest economy and the gateway to Northeast Asia. Its natural beauty, combined with unique cultural heritage preserved for thousands of years and amiable people, attracts visitors from all over the world.
Korea has four seasons with a wet monsoon/summer season in the middle of the year, and a cold winter from November to March. The island of Jeju off the southern coast is the warmest and wettest place in the country. The ideal time to visit Korea is during the autumn months (September-November). During this time, the country experiences warm, sunny weather, skies that are cobalt blue and spectacular foliage that is perhaps the biggest draw. Winter months are cold and dry and are the best time to visit if you are interested in winter sports as there are numerous ski resorts. Spring (April-May) is also beautiful with all the cherry blossoms in bloom. However, it is very busy and one needs to book in advance to ensure accommodation is available. The summer months are muggy and hot, and rather crowded. It is also when the monsoon season begins so many activities are subject to the fluctuations of heavy rain.
Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea, forming the heart of the Seoul Capital Area, which includes the surrounding Incheon metropolis and Gyeonggi province, the world's second largest metropolitan area with over 25.6 million people. It is home to over half of South Koreans along with 632,000 international residents. With a population of over 10 million, the megacity is the largest city proper in the OECD.
Situated on the Han River, Seoul's history stretches back more than two thousand years when it was founded in 18 BCE by Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. It continued as the capital of Korea under the Joseon Dynasty. The Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul is surrounded by mountains, the tallest being Mt. Bukhan, the world's most visited national park per square foot. Modern landmarks include the iconic N Seoul Tower, the gold-clad 63 Building, the neofuturistic Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Lotte World, the world's second largest indoor theme park, Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world's longest bridge fountain and the Sevit Floating Islands. The birthplace of K-pop and the Korean Wave, Seoul was voted the world's most wanted travel destination by Chinese, Japanese and Thai tourists for three consecutive years in 2009–2011 with over 12 million international visitors in 2013, making it the world's 10th most visited city and 6th largest earner in tourism.
Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River which transformed it from the damage of the Korean War to the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$774 billion in 2012 after Tokyo, New York City and Los Angeles. A world leading technology hub centered on Gangnam and Digital Media City, the Seoul Capital Area boasts 15 Fortune Global 500 companies such as Samsung, the world's largest technology company, as well as LG and Hyundai-Kia. In 2013, the city's GDP per capita (PPP) of $39,448 was comparable to that of France and Finland. Ranked sixth in the Global Power City Index and eighth in the Global Financial Centres Index, the metropolis exerts a major influence in global affairs as one of the five leading hosts of global conferences. It also hosts the world's most art openings per square mile.
Seoul is the world's most wired city and ranked first in technology readiness by PwC's Cities of Opportunity report. Seoul Station is the main terminal of the KTX high-speed rail and the Seoul Subway is the world's largest subway network, considered the world's best subway by Jalopnik, providing 4G LTE, WiFi and DMB inside subway cars. Seoul is connected via AREX to Incheon International Airport, rated the world's best airport nine years in a row (2005–2013) by Airports Council International. Lotte World Tower, a 556m (1,824 ft) supertall skyscraper with 123 floors, is being built in Seoul to become the OECD's tallest in 2015 with the world's tallest observation deck and art gallery. Its Lotte Cinema houses the world's largest cinema screen. Seoul's COEX Mall is the world's largest underground shopping mall. Emporis ranked Seoul's skyline having the world's fourth highest visual impact among major cities.