Korea is rich in history and culture. Still, many of its cities are overlooked in favor of vibrant Seoul and bustling Busan. Incheon, Seoul’s southwestern neighbor, is one of those cities. Blending its past with ambitious future plans, it is steadily forging its own path.
Read on to discover 10 things you probably don’t know about Incheon.
Interesting Incheon Facts
1. Incheon has a long history of name changes.
This thriving metropolis has gone by many names in its lifetime. Michuhol, Gyeongwon, Inju, Jemulpo, Inchon—these were all part of Incheon’s history until the early 1400s. Its Romanized name, Inchon, translates to “Kind River” in Korean, an interesting fact about Incheon.
Adding to its chaotic upbringing, the city center moved from Gwangyo to Jemulpo. Under Japanese rule, the outer areas of the city became part of Bucheon County. Several decades later, in the late 1930s, this move was reversed and part of Bucheon was returned to Incheon.
2. This is the site of The Battle of Chemulpo Bay.
During the Russo-Japanese War, this battle took place off Incheon’s coast. Chemulpo—as Incheon was known at the time—was a major strategic target for both sides. Firstly, Chemulpo serviced Seoul as its main port. Secondly, the Japanese had already mapped invasion routes through the area in 1894.
Taking place on the 9th of February 1904, both the Russian and Japanese sides are recorded to have lost over 30 men after Japan anchored in the bay, alongside its enemy.
3. Incheon wants to encourage its people to speak English.
An interesting fact about Incheon is that it proclaimed itself to be an “English City” in February 2007. Officials wanted citizens to gain the same level of English-speaking fluency as their neighbors in Hong Kong and Singapore. The goal of this government-endorsed program was to establish the city as a global commercial hub and so the program’s motto, ‘Smile with English’ is promoted across the city.
4. This is where you’ll find Jeondeungsa Temple.
Construction of the temple was led by Buddhist priest, Adohwasang, in 372 A.D. Originally the temple was named Jinjongsa, and it served as a shrine to the royal family. The temple is housed within Samrangseong Fortress. Samrangseong is a major fortification built as a tribute to Korea’s founding father.
Jeondeungsa Temple is a testament to master craftsmanship. Exploring its collection of buildings can take days. If you don’t have days, highlights include Daeungbojeon Hall. Readying to face the French Navy in war, Korean soldiers wrote their names on the walls of the hall and prayed to Buddha for their safe return home.
5. Incheon International Airport is one of the best in the world.
This efficient hub sees more than 40 million visitors pass through every year and has taken out the #1 spot for Best Airport in the World. And not just once or twice. 12 years in a row, Incheon International Airport has taken the crown. Airport Council International bases the award on interviews with airport visitors. In its most recent win the interviewed visitors collectively gave Incheon International a score of 4.99 out of a possible 5 points, an interesting fact about Incheon.
How does it garner 12 consecutive wins? Maybe because it’s so clean, airy, and bright. It also has free showers available to passengers, beauty services, two movie theaters, and guided tours. There’s something else that places Incheon’s airport at the top of the rankings—a 0.00001% chance of baggage handling errors. So you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than to have Incheon Airport ever loses your bags.
6. Incheon is home to the only official Chinatown in Korea.
Incheon’s Chinatown is over 130 years old. The village had its official opening in 1884, after Korea’s treaty with China and the opening of the Incheon Port. Although very few ethnic Chinese actually live in the area, it is well known for its culinary delicacies. The area attracts visitors for its many cultural attractions, and its ornamental Paifang. The traditional open gate that heralds the entrance to Chinatown is 36 feet tall.
7. The city captured two Guinness World Records.
Bupyeong Station, a subway station, holds the world record for most shops in one underground area. At 104,000 square feet, the mall offers 1,400 stores.
Incheon also holds a world record for the largest outdoor mural. The mural, painted on a large grain silo, is 157 feet tall. The 22 artists commissioned to paint the mural used over 228,000 gallons of paint.
8. This is the third largest city in the country.
There are over 3 million people living and working across this busy coastal city. Only Seoul, the country’s capital, and Busan are more populous, an interesting Incheon fact. Incheon has excellent prospects for development and growth over the next few decades. A key component of this is its proximity to the capital city—you can travel between Seoul and Incheon in under 30 minutes.
9. Incheon fell to North Korea for 15 days.
On the 4th of September 1950, North Korean soldiers occupied Incheon. Following this, U.S. troops launched counter-offensive measures. The Battle of Inchon, as it was later known, was a pivotal victory during the Korean War, allowing South Korea to take back Incheon on the 19th of the same month.
10. Incheon’s economic plans put it ahead of its time.
Focusing on the country’s industry and modernization, Incheon developed Korea’s first free economic zone in 2003. Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) is larger than several European countries at 71 square miles. The Korean government hopes to appeal to foreign enterprise, creating an internationally recognized hub of business and tourism. The three regions of Incheon which make up IFEZ—Songdo, Yeongjong, and Cheongna—will offer commercial, business, and even residential developments.
Blending tradition and culture with a neoteric nod to the future, Incheon is a multifaceted Korean city primed for growth. From ornately crafted temples and thoughtfully preserved history, to the best airport on the planet and one of the world’s largest underground malls, Incheon can cater to all tastes.
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