Gunsan is a city in North Jeolla Province, South Korea. 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.
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 19th century 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.
Nevertheless a battalion of Korean Marines, entrenched in the hills above Gunsan Port, withheld overwhelming communist forces. Their bravery created extra time for the evacuation of the town and port. The action is commemorated with a monument on the ridgeline where the heaviest fighting occurred.
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, GM Korea operates a factory here which assembles the Chevrolet Aveo worldwide and as the Holden Barina in Australia and New Zealand. Near the port the Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle factory is located which produces Daewoo trucks for the domestic and the exporting market. In the domestic market vehicles are sold under Daewoo brand however Tata brandname is used for export due to the dilution of Daewoo brand.