.Incheon underwent a sweeping transformation when, in the final years before its demise, the Joseon Dynasty abandoned its long-held isolationist policy and opened Jemulpo Port to foreign trade. At that time an insignificant fishing village located in Daso-myeon, Jemulpo developed into a strategic military site for Western powers and the central stage for their political and diplomatic activities after the Joseon Dynasty signed an amity and trade treaty with the United States at Hwadojin in May 1882, in addition to a series of trade accords with other countries. Incheon-bu became a city under the local autonomous system that was implemented in 1949 following Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule. After undergoing extensive development and transformation into an industrial city throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Incheon was designated a special city under the direct administration of the central government in 1981. In 1995, Ganghwa-gun, Ongjin-gun, and Geomdan-myeon of Gimpo-gun were incorporated into Incheon, making it one of the largest metropolitan cities in Korea.
.With a population of 2.6 million residents, Incheon is Korea's third-most populous city, following Seoul and Busan. With an international harbor and all-new airport, it now serves as a dynamic transportation and logistics hub for Northeast Asia. Incheon International Airport, which opened in March 2001, is a mega-scale state-of-the-art international airport, accommodating ultrasonic and super-large aircraft as well as conventional planes around the clock. Cargo and container ships from around the world dock at Incheon Harbor, which also offers regular ferry services to seven ports in China-Weihai, Tianjin, Qingdao, Dalian, Dandong, Shanghai, and Yantai.
.A city of open skies and seas, Incheon has long been a natural gathering place for people and materials from throughout Korea and the world. This has enabled it to become an open city that embraces cultural diversity. Its harbor served as a gateway through which foreign culture was introduced, and eventually became home to a Japanese community and Chinatown district, as well as the consulates and trading companies of Western countries. It was also in Incheon that the nation's first train and telephone services were launched.
.After liberation from Japan, Incheon emerged as a key player in Korea's industrialization drive while attracting people from all parts of the country. When the Korean War broke out, many refugees from North Korea resettled in Incheon. Because of this history, Incheon retains the elements of various cultures of neighboring countries, including China and Japan, as well as the traditional culture of inland areas such as Hwanghae-do province and Gyeonggi-do province, and the island influences of coastal areas of Ganghwa-gun and Ongjin-gun. Incheon has preserved and promoted such traditional intangible cultural assets as Eunyul mask dance, samhyeon yukgak, music composed for six instruments, and "Incheon Geunhae Gaekga Norae" (West Sea Waterfront Song). In 1982, Incheon was designated to preserve and carry on the traditional Eunyul Mask Dance (Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 61), which originated in Eunyul, the center of western Hwang-hae-do. Performances of traditional performing arts can be seen at the Subong Folk Outdoor Performing Area every Sunday while a variety of local festivals and cultural events are staged in Incheon throughout the year.
.Incheon comprises 42 inhabited islands, including Yongyudo, Yeong-heungdo, and Seonjaedo, which are connected to the mainland by a bridge network, as well as the more distant islands of Baengnyeongdo, Yeonpyeongdo, and Daecheongdo, and 112 uninhabited islands. Incheon's resort islands boast pristine beaches where visitors can swim, fish, observe various forms of sea life in the tidal flats, have a mud bath, and enjoy the sunset.
.Above all, Incheon features a wealth of noteworthy and well-preserved historical relics. Ganghwado, in particular, has such a rich historical heritage that it is called a museum without walls. Around the island are prehistoric relics attesting to Incheon's history as a provisional capital of Goryeo, as well as dolmen; Chamseongdan, an ancient stone altar for worshipping Dangun, the legendary founder of the Korean nation; the site of a royal Goryeo palace; and Hongneung Royal Tomb where the wife of King Gojong (r. 1213-1259), the 23rd king of the Goryeo Dynasty, is buried. Among the most prominent military relics are Gwangseongbo Fortress, which was built in 1658 to defend against foreign invasions from the sea and was involved in a brief skirmish between Korea and the United States in 1871, and Deokjinjin Garrison.
.The center of Incheon is lined with architectural structures related to its harbor opening, including Jemulpo Gurakbu, a building used as a meeting place for foreigners, Incheon Post Office, a dormitory once occupied by foreign women missionaries, and Japan's 58 Bank. Also worth seeing are Korea's only Chinatown, recently designated a special tourism area, and the Incheon Landing Memorial Hall, with exhibits related to General Douglas MacArthur's decisive Incheon landing operation that turned the tide of the Korean War.
.Pungeoje, a ritual practiced by fishermen to honor gods of the sea and pray for an abundant catch, has become a routine part of life in the harbor city of Incheon. Seohaean Pungeoje can be categorized into baeyeonsingut, which is performed on a fishing boat by a shaman to pray for the safety of the boat and its crew and a bountiful catch, and daedonggut, a communal rite to pray for the well-being of villagers. The shamanic rituals, accompanied by singing and dancing, are performed two or three times a year at Weolmido and in the vicinity of Yeonan Harbor, which houses the passenger terminal for ferry services to Incheon's popular resort islands. Meanwhile, the West Coast Village Festival, which is presented on several islands, includes a rite performed on Yeonpyeongdo to pay tribute to General Im Gyeong-eop (1594-1646), a distinguished general during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-1649) of the Joseon Dynasty who is regarded as a protector of the island.
.Ganghwa Cultural Festival
.Home to a variety of cultural relics, Ganghwa hosts an annual cultural festival in late September to promote its cultural heritage, which includes prehistoric dolmen and the carving of the Tripitaka Koreana printing blocks. The Dolmen Festival, which takes place at the Dolmen Plaza in Bukgeun-ri, Hajeom-myeon, Ganghwa-gun, offers a glimpse of what it was like to live during the prehistoric age through demonstration programs that include digging below-ground shelters, producing stone axes, and lighting a fire. Along with related exhibitions, the Tripitaka Koreana Festival demonstrates the painstaking process involved with producing the Tripitaka Koreana wooden printing blocks, to highlight the remarkable achievements of Korea's printing culture. A reenactment of the enthronement procession and coronation ceremony of King Cheoljong (r. 1849-1863), who was called the "Bachelor of Ganghwa" before he ascended the throne, is also staged during the festival. In addition, a traditional ritual is held on Mt. Manisan, a spiritual mountain, to worship Korea's legendary founder Dangun.
.Hwadojin, located in Hwasu-dong, Dong-gu, is a fortress that was originally built in preparation for the intrusion of "Western barbarians" toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty. It is here that Korea signed its first amity and trade agreement with the United States. The Hwadojin Festival, held each May, features a reenactment of the signing of this agreement, as well as performances of various folk arts, demonstrations of ceramic making, and traditional crafts.
.Wolmido is a favorite resort area of Incheon. Every weekend, it bustles with visitors from all parts of the Seoul and Incheon metropolitan areas who come to enjoy the refreshing sea air. The Wolmi Festival is held annually in September along the Street of Culture. The highlight of the festival is the spectacular fireworks show that lights up the night skies over the sea. There are a variety of events including a dance contest for teenagers and performances of jazz, pantomime, and contemporary dance.