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The Essential Guide to Incheon

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Once upon a time, Incheon was a quiet seaside village, pretty typical for Korea. The men went fishing, the women made kimchi. There were maybe a couple thousand people altogether in the region.

And then it got caught in the middle of a war. Incheon is where, late in 1950, the U.S. Marines landed, marking the beginning of the end of the Korean War, a war that ultimately claimed more than 40,000 American soldiers’ lives and an undetermined number of Koreans. 

After the fighting, when Incheon had a chance to dig itself out from the mud and shrapnel, it became part of the Korean economic miracle, the country’s first official free-enterprise zone. With its perfect natural port, flat landscape and 3 million residents, it’s become as much a part of the Seoul megalopolis now as it is a place of its own. 

Visit Incheon with a Korean War vet, and they likely won’t recognize a thing, except maybe a small area around Freedom Park. Where once there were rice ponds, there are now high-rise apartment buildings. Even the beach the Marines landed on has been filled and reshaped to make more room for the Korean economic miracle. But there’s an entire generation haunted by this place, and it’s well worth looking around.

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128-1 Deokgyo-dong, Jung-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Hwanghaekalguksu specializes in seafood and noodle dishes, something Koreans do better than anyone else. You do have to be limber enough to sit on the floor, since the restaurant offers traditional dining, but the mere scent of noodle and crab and...

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27-69 Hang-dong 7(chil)-ga, Jung-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Korea is famous for three kinds of food: ginseng, kimchi and fish. This market is where the fish get delivered right off the boat. Inside, more than 500 shops sell anything and everything that swims or crawls on the ocean floor. You probably...

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Wolmimunhwa-ro, Gaho-dong, Jung-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Wolmido Island is about a kilometer (a half-mile or so) from Incheon and, once upon a time, was actually an island; now it’s joined to the mainland by both road and monorail. During the war, it was used to block access to Incheon and was...

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25 Jayugongwonnam-ro, Bukseong-dong 3(sam)-ga, Jung-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Incheon’s Freedom Park (also called Jayu Park) celebrates the end of the war. In a prominent place you’ll find a statue of General Douglas MacArthur, who remains a hero in South Korea for leading the amphibious attack that liberated...

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138 Cheongnyang-ro, Ongnyeon-dong, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Incheon Landing Memorial Hall honors a pivotal moment in the city’s history and in the country’s push for freedom. More than 75,000 troops and 250 ships took part in MacArthur’s amphibious landing at Incheon, like a wall of metal...

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43 China town-ro, Bukseong-dong 3(sam)-ga, Jung-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Jajangmyeon Museum, at the edge of Incheon's Freedom Park, shows that the city has something going for it besides war history. This is a museum about noodles: not just any noodles, but the Korean specialty of black soybean noodles. Here you can...

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43 China town-ro, Bukseong-dong 3(sam)-ga, Jung-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Gonghwachun in Incheon is the place for traditional black soybean noodles and a lovely traditional atmosphere. In Chinatown (the restaurant’s original site is now the Jajangmyeon Museum, two stories full of noodle history), this is a...

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35 Yeonnam-ro, Guwol-dong, Nam-gu, Incheon, South Korea

Shinsegae Department Store in Incheon (there are also a few in Seoul and several others scattered around the country) is South Korea’s answer to Macy’s or the Bay. Seven floors of exactly what you'd expect to find in department stores,...