The Port of Gunsan (also called Kunsan) lies on South Korea's western shores about 40 kilometers west-northwest of Jeon-ju, the Cholla-puk provincial capital. Located on the south banks of the Geum River as it enters the Yellow Sea, the Port of Gunsan is about 245 kilometers west-northwest of the Port of Busan and some 300 nautical miles east of China's Port of Qingdao. In 2005, over 277 thousand people called the Port of Gunsan home.
The Port of Gunsan has long shipped rice, and its industries historically were engaged in processing, storing, and moving rice grown in the surrounding region. In 1945, a thermoelectric plant was built in the Port of Gunsan, and new industries began to process and produce paper, lumber, and rubber. A plastics industry also began to develop. The United States Air Force maintains the Kunsan Air Base there. The Port of Gunsan is linked by rail to Iksan, and it is connected to the Seohaean Expressway. The Port of Gunsan also has a new free trade zone to encourage investment.
For many centuries, the Port of Gunsan was a small fishing village on the fertile western Honam plain, and it was well known locally as a trade port since the 15th Century. Largely in response to pressure from Japan, Koreans began to grow rice there, and the Port of Gunsan was created in the late 1800s to ship that rice via the Kunsan Inner Harbor's floating pier.
The Port of Gunsan officially opened to international trade in 1899. During the period of Japanese colonization of Korea, the Port of Gunsan was settled by many Japanese who built the old City Hall and the Customs House.
When the Port of Gunsan was liberated from the Japanese at the end of World War II in 1945, the city slowly began to grow. Fortunately, the Port of Gunsan was generally untouched by the Korean War in the 1950s. In their determined march to the south and Busan, the North Korean Communists largely bypassed the Port of Gunsan. When the United Nations forces moved quickly to the north, there was little conflict in the Port of Gunsan area.
When the Korean War ended, the United States Air Force occupied Kunsan Air Base, and the American presence has definitely affected the Port of Gunsan. The base was built under the Japanese in 1923 when mudflats were reclaimed.
During the latter half of the 20th Century, personnel from the air base contributed greatly to the Port of Gunsan economy. However, today's growing and diverse Korean economy has lessened that influence since the 1990s.
Shops that used to court US troops now blend with the businesses that serve Korean consumers. There is still an American shopping district, and a small town about five kilometers from the air base still caters to US troops.
The outer port of the Port of Gunsan was constructed between 1974 and 1995 at the same time the Gunsan Seaside Industrial Complex was being developed. The Port of Gunsan's Pier No. 1 was completed in 1979, and the port control tower at the outer port was finished in 1987. Pier 2 in the outer port was completed in 1990, and the Kun-Jang New Port was built the same year. Since 1990, Port of Gunsan has been growing as an international trade port as planned in the Kun-Jang New Port Development Plan covering the period from 1990 to 2011.
In 1994, Pier No. 3 was constructed, and Pier No. 4 (Daewoo Automobile pier) was finished in 1997. In 2000, the first section of the South Quay, with six berths, started operating, and the second section with another six berths was completed in 2003.
Today, the Port of Gunsan economy is based on agriculture, fishing, and heavy industry. The Industrial Zone is located on reclaimed land west of the city. Auto-maker Daewoo Motors has a factory in the Port of Gunsan, exporting the Chevrolet Aveo to the US and the Holden Barina to Australia and New Zealand. The Daewoo commercial factory near the Port of Gunsan produces trucks for both domestic and foreign markets.
The Port of Gunsan recently completed the new Saemangum Seawall, the world's longest dyke.