Introduction to Gyeonggi-do
Gyeonggi-do is located in the northwest region of South Korea. The name of the province means “the area surrounding the capital” in English. Gyeonggi-do, by far, is the most populous province in South Korea with a population of over 13,500,000 people. The second closest province according to population is Gyeongsangnam-do with 3,375,000 million people. The reason for such a large population is the province’s proximity to Seoul, the nation’s largest city and capital of the country. And according to area, Gyeonggi-do is the fifth largest province.
Gyeonggi-do has been important politically since the Three Kingdoms (57 B.C. – 668 A.D.). King Onjo of Baekje (r. 18 B.C. – 28 A.D.) founded the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C. – 660 A.D.), which was one of the Three Kingdoms. He would found his government in Wiryeseong, which is now southern Seoul. The Han River Valley was absorbed by the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.), which was another member of the Three Kingdoms, during the mid-fifth century. Finally, the area, which is now known as Gyeonggi-do, finally became a part of the Silla Kingdom in 553 A.D. It was during this time that Gyeonggi-do, which was one of the nine states of Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.), was called Hansanju. The Gyeonggi-do region started to grow in prominence as a central region of Goryeo, as King Taejo of Goryeo (r. 918-943 A.D.), the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), established the nation’s capital in Kaesong. And since 1018, during the Goryeo Dynasty, this region of the peninsula came to be known officially as Gyeonggi.
On October 1, 1910, Gyeonggi was renamed Keiki-do during Japanese Colonization (1910-1945). And a provincial government was placed in Keiki-do according to the Japanese reorganization of administrative districts. After liberation in 1945, the two Koreas were formed as independent states. Gyeonggi-do and Seoul were separated into the southern region, while Kaesong and its adjoining territory became part of the newly established North Korea. As North Korea, this area would become known as North Hwanghae-do. In 1946, Seoul separated from the province and became a special city. And in 1981, Incheon would also become a special city and leave Gyeonggi-do, as well. In 1967, Suwon became the capital of Gyeonggi-do.
Over the decades, Gyeonggi-do has seen a rapid increase in its population. This is mainly as a result of the modernization and urbanization of Korea as a whole. In 1960, Gyeonggi-do had a population of nearly 2,750,000 people. This would change to nearly 3,300,000 in 1970; followed by nearly 5 million in 1980. In 2000, the total population would stand at nearly 9 million. And by 2020, that number would increase, once more, this time to nearly 13,500,000 people.
Gyeonggi-do economically, at least historically, centred on manufacturing. The province has also diversified itself into heavy industry, light industry, farming, and fisheries. In total, Gyeonggi-do is made up of 28 cities and 3 counties. Suwon is the largest city at 1,177,000 people, and the smallest city in the province is Gwacheon at 70,000 people. As for the counties, the largest is Yangpyeong at 106,000 people.
Religiously, 51.5% of the population is irreligious. This is followed by 34.4% that follow some form of Christianity (21.9% Protestant and 12.4% Catholic). The third largest religious demographic is Buddhism with 16.8%.
Like the rest of the country, Gyeonggi-do has its fair share of historical temples. Some of the more prominent are Yongjusa Temple, Silleuksa Temple, and Yeonjuam Hermitage. And more recently, you’ll see more modern temples like Waujeongsa Temple. Below are a list of some of the Buddhist temples you might find in Gyeonggi-do.
- 1. Waujeongsa Temple – 와우정사 (Yongin, Gyeonggi-do): 9/10
- 2. Silleuksa Temple – 신륵사 (Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do): 9/10
- 3. Yongjusa Temple – 용주사 (Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do): 8.5/10
- 4. Yeonjuam Hermitage/Yeonjudae – 연주암/연주대 (Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do): 8.5/10
- 5. Sammaksa Temple/Sangbulam Hermitage – 삼막사/상불암 (Anyang, Gyeonggi-do): 7/10