Kaesong is a small city and former capital of Koryo Dynasty (918 A.D. - 1392 A.D.). It is the only major city that changed hands between North and South Korea as a result of the Korean War. It is becoming increasingly well-known for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a "special economic zone", developed by Hyundai Asan with North Korea. This zone now has over 10,000 North Korean workers in over a dozen brand-new factories owned by South Korean companies.
Kaesong is connected to Pyongyang by highway, about two and a half hours away. There are road and rail links that connect Kaesong to South Korea, however, as of April, 2013, these links have been closed by the North Korean government as part of an increase in tensions surrounding both South Korean/US joint military exercises as well as UN sanctions applied due to the north's nuclear test in February 2013. While open, these routes were only open to business, diplomatic and group tour traffic, and not for general traffic use.
Formerly group tour buses running daily from Seoul were available through Hyundai-Asan, however this seems to have been stopped by North Korea in recent months, and it is unclear when/if they will become available again. As of August 2012, the tour is still unavailable. North Korea has been pushing for the tours to resume, but the current South Korean administration under Lee Myung-bak is holding back, hoping to get concessions from the North.
It is forbidden to travel around the city without a tour guide.
Ancient temples and Koryo rulers' tombs.
- Nam Gate, or the South Gate, was built between 1391 and 1393, at the same time as the inner citadel of the walled city. The citadel used to have seven gates, but only Nam Gate is left. During the Korea War it was severely damaged and rebuilt in 1954.
- On a small hill near Nam Gate is the Students and Childrens’ Palace, a lesser version of the Children's Palace in Pyongyang.
- Sonjuk Bridge is a small stone bridge dating back to 1216. It is only 7 meters long and 2.5 meters wide. Lee Bang Won, the third king of the Chosun Dynasty and son of first king of that dynasty, had his opponent Jong Mong Ju executed on this bridge in 1392. It is named after a bamboo that grew up beside the bridge.
- On a hill 13km outside Kaesong are the tombs of King Kongmin and his queen; from the tombs there is a nice view of the surrounding scenery.
- The old town is one of the best preserved in all of Korea, and traditional Korean-style buildings dating back from the Joseon period can still be seen. However, it is typically not included on most tours, though tour guides who trust their groups enough are known to take tourists for a short walk through the old town.
Souvenirs such as ginseng, DPRK stamps, books written by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il, and Korean handicrafts are available, and not expensive. Stores selling souvenirs accept US dollars, euros and Chinese yuan.
The majority of visitors are placed in the Kaesong Folk Hotel, which comprises traditional Korean houses and courtyards converted into a hotel. It has a small souvenir shop and restaurant. If you're not part of a tour group you might have the hotel all to yourself. It is located just a few blocks away from the Nam Gate.*