Seoul is very close to North Korea. Indeed, during the war, the city was even at times controlled by North Korean forces. During this time, Busan was the capital of South Korea.

However, today, Seoul is by far the biggest city in South Korea, with 10 million inhabitants (compared to 3 million in Busan), the capital, the political and economical center of the country.

Why? Why have the South Koreans decided, since the war, to return to Seoul and make it the center of their country, when it is so close to North Korea, and currently within mortar range? Indeed, if war ever broke out with North Korea, experts estimate that North Korea could wipe out Seoul.

Obviously you cannot just pack your bags now and move down south to Busan, but, during the 50s, wasn't that the obvious thing to do? Why would you willingly move your civilians close to the border within close range of the enemy? Even if North Korea didn't have this heavy artillery back then (I am pretty sure they did?), surely it should've been obvious that at one point, they would have such artillery, so Seoul's location is not optimal and Busan should've remained the capital?

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    Back then nobody really imagined Korean war could last this long and Korea remained divided well into 21st century. When they realized NK would continue to be another (unfriendly) nation forever there is already too much established in Seoul to move elsewhere. And no NK didn't have such long range artillery in the 50s.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koksan_(artillery) didn't enter service until late 70s. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 18:18
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    I don't think the question should be "Why was Seoul chosen after the war?", cause it's always been the capital. I think the question is, "Would they be wise to move it now?", given long range missile threats. There have been discussions to that effect and some resistance as well. Some good answers here: quora.com/…
    – userLTK
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 18:37
  • The US capital was easily accessible to invading forces, that had to come here via sea, so much so that it was sacked and burned by the British. I don't see that we moved it to the Iowa, Nebraska or Kansas in response. Capitals and cities, in general, develop because of certain advantages to their locations. Those reasons don't go away and can't necessarily be replicated on a whim, and certainly when you have a long and ancient history around a location, that's going to make it even less transient. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


National pride, and limited benefit of moving.

There is a tradition of Seoul being the capital of Korea, dating back to the 1400s, indeed it's current name means "Capital". To move the capital (i.e. to move the government) would be a defeat.

There would be limited benefits, just moving the seat of government doesn't move the people. Even if Busan had been made the capital of South Korea there would still be a city of 1.5 million in 1955 close to the border with North Korea, and still vulnerable to attack from the North. The location of the Government doesn't change that.

You will note that national pride in the location of a Captial is not limited to Korea. The capital of the USA wasn't moved during the war of 1812, and when Germany reunified, the capital of the Bundesrepublic was moved from Bonn to Berlin as soon as possible. Not because Berlin was better located, but simply for national pride.

  • I’d just like to point out that moving the German capital to Berlin was controversial and by no means universally supported; a significant portion of the Bundestag wanted to keep the capital in Bonn. The majority of legislators from the original FRG actually wanted the government to stay in Bonn.
    – H Huang
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 16:56

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