The Port of Gwangyang is on the south-central coast of South Korea in South Jeolla Province. Just 18 kilometers north of the small Port of Yeosu, the Port of Gwangyang is about 125 kilometers west-southwest of the country's largest port, Busan, and about 160 kilometers southeast of the Port of Gunsan. In 2003, over 137 thousand people called the Port of Gwangyang home.
Gwangyang city is home to POSCO's Gwangyang Steel Works, the world's largest facility of its kind. It's also the development center for the Gwangyang Bay Area Free Economic Zone, scheduled to be completed in 2011, when the Port of Gwangyang will focus on container-handling, shipbuilding, and steel production.
Archeological evidence from the Old Stone Age has been found in six areas near the Port of Gwangyang, including hunting tools and stone blades. Shell mounds and artifacts also confirm New Stone Age habitation of a village there about 4000 BC.
Later (but still ancient) tombs and ruins of early villages demonstrate habitation in the 1st Century BC. In 940 AD, the ancient village of Heeyang-hyun was renamed Gwangyang-hyun by the first king, Koryo.
The Port of Yeosu, just south of the Port of Gwangyang, is the area's historic port. It was here that Admiral Yi Sunsin constructed the famous turtle-shaped battleships and stopped the 1592 attempted invasion of the Japanese. The modern Yeosu Port opened in 1923, and it was the first port in the eastern Jeollanam province to open to foreign trade.
Construction was completed on the Port of Gwangyang's Jungheung and Nakpo Piers in 1974. By 1985, the first phase of the POSCO products wharf was finished, and the POSCO raw materials wharf was finished in 1987.
The Port of Gwangyang opened in 1986 when its new facilities were integrated with the existing Samil Port. In 1987, the POSCO Gwangyang Works opened for business. The POSCO Gwangyang Steel Works is the second such mill in South Korea, and it has the world's biggest steel plant, the most modern technology, and the best facilities for manufacturing steel. Today, the plant makes coil for bridges, iron structures, cars, refrigerators, and many other products. The Steel Works in the Port of Gwangyang can produce as much as 15 million tons of product per year. More than 300 thousand people from all over the world visit the plant each year.
In 1994, construction began on the Yulchon 1 Regional Industrial Complex. The Port of Gwangyang built the Gwangyang Container Terminal to make the port a logistics center for all of Northeast Asia. In 1998, Phase 1 of the Container Terminal began, and the Gwangyang Container Terminal, Phase 2-1, opened in 2002. Phase 2-2 of the container terminal was completed in 2004, and Phase 3-1 opened in 2007. Today, the container terminal operates 16 berths and plans further development.
Yeosu Port was recently designated a Marine National Park, and it was selected as host city for the "Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea." The port authority expects that the Expo will help make Gwangyang Bay the logistics and tourist hub for Northeast Asia.
In late 2007, a referendum was proposed to merge the cities of Yeosu, Gwangyang, and Suncheon to form a new metropolis. The new city economy would be based on the Gwangyang Bay Free Economic Zone and the POSCO plant there, Yeosu's Expo 2012 bid and port, and the education institutes in Suncheon.