Kaesong Travel Guide

Browse 17 travel reviews, 4 travel blogs and 282 travel photos from real travelers to Kaesong.

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Kaesong Overview

Most tourists visit Kaesong as an overnight stop when visiting Panmunjom and the Demilitarized Zone at they are not doable as a day trip from Pyongyang. That said, there are quite a few attractions in and around Kaesong worthy a look in themselves.

Kaesong was the imperial capital of Korea from 992 to 1392 and many of the attractions worthy a look date from this Koryo Dynasty period and the subsequent Ri/Joseon Dynasty period which lasted into the 1890s, prior to Japan occupying the country and formally annexing it in 1910.

Kaesong is North Korea’s southern-most city lying around 10kms north of the border with South Korea. It has a population of around 200,000 though, seeing its relatively deserted streets, one could question this figure.

The city managed to survive, almost unscathed, the US lead bombing campaigns of northern cities during the 1950-53 Korean War while most other cities and towns were almost obliterated.

This seems especially surprising given its location close to the then border between the two Koreas. The reason it wasn’t bombed is actually quite simple. When the peninsula was divided by the US and the USSR post WWII the border was the 38th parallel north. Kaesong lies just south of this line and was thus part of South Korea and as such was not bombed by the South/US during the war even though it changed hands on a number of occasions between 1950 and 1953.

Following the Korean War there was a slight realignment of the border such that South Korea lost Kaesong. In fact, this slight border realignment (Kaesong was the only city to change hands) was the only material outcome of hostilities which lasted three years and cost between two and three million lives.

As Kaesong was not obliterated like most other North Korean cities during the war it has retained, within the city and in the surrounding area, many items of historical significance and interest to the visitor including the Kaesong old town area, the Koryo Museum and the Tomb of King Kongmin (UNESCO listed). Naturally, this being North Korea, the first thing visitors do is visit and pay their respects to a massive statue of Kim Il-sung, here set high above the town on Mt Janam.

In most recent times Kaesong’s main claim to fame is the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture between North and South Korea.Here over 50,000 North Koreans are employed in the 100 plus South Korean factories which have set up here since 2005.

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