Hanam’s history spans from the birth of Korea’s three ancient kingdoms until today.
The Old Capital
Today’s Hanam City borrows its name from Hanam Wiryeseong (하남위례성). That’s a long name. Let’s unpack it.
- “Han” (한) refers to the River.
- “Nam” (남) translates to south.
- “Wirye” (위례) might refer to either the Han River or an old name for the Baekjae.
- “Seong” (성) means fortress or castle.
Wiryeseong (하남위례성)? Seong (성)? Like a castle? Yes.
The old Baekjae capital built several fortifications near present day Hanam and eastern Seoul.
Why? Some said whoever controlled the Han River controlled Korea. The river provided access to the interior of the peninsula and to the largest trading partner in the region, China. Hence, the waterway saw centuries of battle between three kingdoms.
Baekje and Silla pushed Goguryeo back north, and Baekje reclaimed some territory. However, three years later, Silla and China’s Tang Dynasty combined forces. They conquered both Baekjae and Goguryeo’s territory, uniting the Korean peninsula for the first time.
While settlements persisted in the Han River basin, people and time abandoned Baekje’s old capital, Wiryeseong.
From the 1960s to the 2000s, Seoul’s economic fortunes accelerated. Industries grew. Towers rose. A middle class amassed.
Enter Hanam. In 1989, a few towns and counties combined to create the city with a population of 100,000 people.
In 2010, the city hit the economic gas. To catch fleeing Seoulites they developed several districts with new apartments and commercial areas. By 2020, the city tripled its residents to almost 300,000.
- To the West: Seoul Metropolitan City (서울특별시; Seoul-si).
- To the North: Namyangju City (남양주시; Namyangju-si).
- To the East: Namyangju City (남양주시; Namyangju-si) & Gwangju City (광주시; Gwangju-si)
- To the South: Seongnam City (성남시; Seongnam-si) & Gwangju City (광주시; Gwangju-si)
Hanam sits in the northern-middle of South Korea. Along the northern and western edge of Hanam wraps the Han River. To the west lies the metropolitan behemoth of Seoul. To the south?
The “city” part of Hanam takes up only 23% of its total territory. Most of its citizens, buildings and infrastructure nestles in the northern tip, against the Han River.
What about the other 77%? Groups of mighty peaks rise below downtown Hanam.
- Namhan Mountain (남한산, Namhansan) climbs 522 meters (1,509 feet) directly south of downtown Hanam. It is home to Namhansan Fortress (남한산성; Namhansanseong), one of Korea’s oldest, best preserved military installations.
- Geumam (금암산, Geumamsan 321 m) and Gaek (객산; Gaeksan; 292 m) Mountains sit between Namhan Mountain and downtown Hanam. They rise 321 meters (1,053 feet) and 292 meters (958 feet) respectively.
- Geomdan Mountain (검단산; Geomdansan) is the tallest peak in Hanam. It elevates to 658 meters (2,159 feet)
Most of these mountains remain green, untouched. In them you can find temples, fortresses, and a few cultural artifacts.
Weirye Riverside Road
With all that nature to the south, Hanam didn’t need to create more parks. Right? Wrong.
The city added recreational spaces to their downtown by developing Weirye Riverside Road (위례 강변길). Like the Hangang Park system in Seoul, the recreational space stretches the length of the Han River in Hanam.