Gunsan is a city in Jeollabuk-do. It is located on the south bank of the Geum River just upstream from its exit into the Yellow Sea. Gunsan is served by frequent railway service on the Gunsan Line from Iksan. It is also connected to the Seohaean Expressway.
Kunsan Air Base of the U.S. Air Force is located in the city. To encourage investment, a free trade zone has also been declared in the area.
Famous people from Gunsan include actress Lee Eun-ju, who was born there.
Gunsan was a small fishing village on the banks of the Geum River, near to where the river spills into the Yellow Sea. It sits on the fertile western Honam plain where much rice is harvested. Gunsan became a port in the late 1800s largely due to pressure from the Japanese on the Koreans to ship rice to Japan. In 1899, Gunsan Port officially opened up to international trade. Gunsan City was largely settled by Japanese during the period of Japanese colonization. The old (now demolished) City Hall and the Customs House are of Japanese construction. After liberation from the Japanese in 1945, Gunsan began to grow slowly.
The Korean War of the 1950s left the Gunsan area relatively unscathed. The initial drive south by the Communist North Koreans pushed the United Nations and South Korean forces toward Busan so quickly that Gunsan was spared from protracted fighting. Likewise, the drive north by the United Nations forces occurred so rapidly that there was little direct confrontation in the area. After the cessation of hostilities, the United States Air Force occupied nearby Kunsan Air Base, which has had an impact on Gunsan City.
Kunsan Air Base was originally constructed, under Japanese direction, by reclaiming mudflats starting in about 1923. Kunsan Air Base has hosted a variety of USAF combat aircraft. The proximity of US service members to Gunsan City has provided some economic growth to Gunsan City, but the base's influence has waned since the 1990s as a result of a more powerful and diversified Korean economy. The downtown shopping districts that catered to US troops have transformed into areas that are indistinguishable from surrounding areas that serve Korean shoppers. Only a few remaining stores hint at the area's previous manifestation as an American shopping district. Still, a small town (Okku-Silver Town, or more popularly America Town) still caters to US troops. Located about 5 kilometers from the main gate of Kunsan Air Base, America Town hosts a multitude of bars, dance clubs, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Today, Gunsan's economy thrives on fishing, agriculture and heavy industry located west of the city in the reclaimed area known as the Industrial Zone. Perhaps most notably, Daewoo Motors operates a factory here which assembles the Daewoo Kalos, car also sold as the Chevrolet Aveo in the US and as the Holden Barina in Australia and New Zealand.
Just south of Gunsan is the newly opened Saemangum Seawall, the longest dyke in the world.
Restaurants and Bars
Gunsan is well-known for sliced raw fish, or hae. In addition to the renowned Gunsan Seafood Hotjip right on the water in the old port area, a new hae center is being constructed to the east of the city, by the Geum River dam/bridge. Gunsan also boasts a first-class seafood market. Situated right on the water front, this newer enclosed market has many fresh and frozen fish, crabs and shellfish; salted fish and shrimp and dried fish. On the upper level are a variety of sushi restaurants.
As the average Korean, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants are in abundance throughout Korea and are easy for foreigners to find, the following restaurants reflect a sampling of restaurants considered to be either popular or are western-friendly choices and other ethnic foods.