Kunsan Air Base operated by the United States Air Force is in the city. To encourage investment, a free trade zone has been declared in the area.
Famous people from Gunsan include actress Lee Eun-ju, comedian Park Myeong-su, and Teen Top member L.Joe.
Gunsan was a small fishing village on the banks of the Geum River, near 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. (35°59′26″N 126°42′16″E)
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 affected 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. The small Okku-Silver Town (or more popularly America Town) caters to US troops. About 5 km from the main gate of Kunsan Air Base, America Town hosts bars, dance clubs, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Today, Gunsan's economy thrives on fishing, agriculture and heavy industry west of the city in the reclaimed area known as the Industrial Zone. GM Korea operates a factory here that assembles the Chevrolet Aveo worldwide and as the Holden Barina in Australia and New Zealand. Near the port, the Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle factory produces Daewoo trucks for the domestic and export markets. In the domestic market vehicles are sold under Daewoo brand; the Tata brand name is used for export due to the dilution of the Daewoo brand.
It is a major port, especially for rice shipments, and is a commercial center for the rice grown in the Geum basin. Rice processing and shipbuilding are important industries, and paper, lumber, rubber, and plastic are also produced. Originally a poor fishing village, Gunsan gained importance with the development of its port, which was opened to foreign trade in 1899. The Japanese, who ruled Korea from 1905 to 1945, further developed the city and port.
Just south of Gunsan is the newly opened Saemangum Seawall, the longest dyke in the world.
The Gunsan Islands consist of 16 inhabited islands and 47 uninhabited islands. Gogunsangundo Islands constitutes Shinsido Island, Munyeodo Island, Bangchukdo Island, and Maldo Island, and Seonyudo Island is the center of the islands. Among the isles, Seon-yu Isle has been long recognized as one of the Seon-yu Eight Famous Spots which are renowned for their natural beauty. A passenger ship to Seonyudo Island operates on average 6-8 times a day. Departing times differ each month depending on the differences in the tide.
Eunpa, meaning "Silver Wave" (because of its feature of shining water under sunshine), was originally a reservoir for agriculture but designated as a National Tourist Place in 1985. In spring, a 1-km cherry blossom tunnel is formed from the entrance to the facility compound. In summer, people can enjoy wind surfing and boating in the acacia fragrance. In fall, people can enjoy walking along a promenade stretching from the meeting square at the entrance while picking up chestnuts. It is not only known as a local representation of Gunsan, but also as the nation's tourist place with a mixture of Mulbit (Water and Light) Bridge 370 m long and 3 m wide. A music fountain operates 8 times, 20 minutes per round. It was selected as one of the 100 Big Noted Tourists in Korea in the 'Creating a Good Place to Live' local resources contest.
In 1990, a river mouth bank was constructed at the mouth of Geum Rivers, which was the gateway of Baekje. It is spotlighted as the largest migrant bird colony in Korea with reed forests. It has become nationally famous because of the grand sight of many uncommon migratory birds such as Baikal teals, wild ducks, mallards, wild geese, herring gulls, black head gulls, black head Kentish plovers, etc., and approximately 500,000 winter migrant birds of 40 types visit between mid-October and March. A 360-degree observatory offers detailed and close-up views of migrant birds of the Geumgang River area, and the Bird Watching Gallery is the best vantage point in all of Korea to view migratory birds.
Wolmyeong Park is in the middle of Gunsan city. During spring, colorful cherry blossoms and camellia flowers are in full bloom, while beautiful foliage attracts visitors during fall. On the mountain top, both Geumgang (river) and West sea come into sight.
Japanese style houses in Sinheung-Dong are traditional houses of Japanese style, which was constructed by Hiroth, a Japanese fabric dealer of large scale during the colonial era. It has a great architectural value as the roof, finishing touch of outer wall, and inner garden are kept as they were when it was first constructed. It is also a place of filming the movies, such as The son of the general and Ttajja.
Dongguksa is the only temple left in Korea which was built in Japanese style. Plain eaves and many windows of the outer wall of the main temple are the characteristics of Japanese temples.
Jinpo Marine Park is a theme park that displays retired military equipment (13 types, 16 equipment) of the armed forces, such as Korean naval vessels, at the inner harbor of the historical site of Jinpo battle, recorded to be the first naval battle with guns of warships in the world.
Saemanguem New Year’s Festival is hosted on the first day (January 1) of every year at Saemangeum seawall, the longest seawall in the world. Through events, such as sharing rice cake soup, writing new wishes, and releasing balloons of hopes, this day provides an opportunity to plan the new year with family, make wishes, and feel the mystique and deep sensation of nature.Saemanguem New Year's Festival
Gunsan Modern History Museum
Eunpa River Park includes music fountain and bike ways.
Children's Transportation Park
Gunsan is well known for sliced raw fish, or hoe. In addition to the renowned Gunsan Seafood Hotjip right on the water is 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. 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. Gunsan also has an authentic Mexican restaurant named Chico's Mexican food located in 강천상가 near the Yest Mall.
Lee Sung Dang is the oldest bakery in Korea. It has been in business in the same location since 1945. Popular menu items include danpatppang (bread filled with red bean paste) and yachaeppang (vegetable bread).
There are 154 primary education schools with approximately 39,539 students in attendance. There are a total of four secondary education institutions located in Gunsan.
There is one international primary school, the Overseas Chinese Primary School in Gunsan (群山華僑小學/군산화교소학교).Kunsan National University
Kunsan College of Nursing
Gunsan E-mart, the 31st E-mart branch and the third in the Jeonbuk Area, has an area of 16,200 pyong (5.35 ha) and a shopping area of 4,000 pyong (1.32 ha) with parking facilities capable of holding 1,100 vehicles. It is a four-story building (one basement included), which is the biggest E-mart in Korea.
Gunsan Lotte Mart—with a total sales area of 13,686m²—is the biggest discount shopping mall in Gunsan with an indoor parking lot from the 4th to 7th floor which provides shopping convenience.
Gunsan Oldam Public Market is the first modern mart-like traditional market of Korea, with 90 years of history. There are a lot of foods which are inexpensive, along with a lot of attractions, such as a forge of old days.
The modes of transportation in Gunsan are Intra-City Bus, Inter-City Bus, Express Bus and Railroad. There are roundtrip airplane flights from Gunsan to Jeju Island and passenger liner ferries to Shidao, China.
Gunsan is served by frequent railway service on the Gunsan Line from Iksan. It is connected to the Seohaean Expressway.
Gunsan is twinned with: Tacoma, Washington, United States (1979)
Yantai, Shandong, China (1994)
Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang, South Korea (1998)
Dong-gu, Daegu, South Korea (2000)
Pimpri-Chinchwad, Maharashtra, India (2004)
Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India (2004)
Windsor, Ontario, Canada (2005)