The Port of Mokpo lies at the tip of the Muan Peninsula at the far southwestern end of the Korean Peninsula off the Yellow Sea (called the West Sea by Koreans). The Port of Mokpo is about 119 kilometers west-southwest of the Port of Gwangyang and 160 kilometers south of the Port of Gunsan. In 2006, more than 241 thousand people lived in the Port of Mokpo.
With more than 1400 islands within the coastal area, the Port of Mokpo enjoys rich fishing grounds, and it is the gateway to South Korea's most productive granary, the Honam Plain. The Port of Mokpo served as a navy base for many centuries and was opened to foreign trade in 1879. Connected with Seoul through Taejon by both road and rail, the Port of Mokpo is the terminal for many ferry routes serving the islands in the Yellow Sea. Its main industries are manufacturing of salt chemicals and marine products.
In an attempt to fend off Japanese pirates, the Joseon Dynasty's King Sejong established the Mokpo bay camp in 1439. In the late 16th Century, the area around the Port of Mokpo was the site of many battles during the Japan's 1592 invasion of Korea. In the 1597 Battle of Myeongnyang, national hero Admiral Yi-Sun-shin led 13 Korean ships in defeating a Japanese fleet of 133 ships.
After many years of struggle to prevent Japanese occupation, the Port of Mokpo was opened as a treaty port in 1897, and Japan established it as a colonial city. Japanese occupation continued until the end of World War II. During Japanese occupation, the Port of Mokpo was an important site for commercial projects, and many Japanese colonial buildings remain in the city today.
Until the 1970s, the Port of Mokpo was a busy port and commercial center with one of the best education systems in Korea. It was also one of the country's largest cities. Political issues brought about a decline in the Port of Mokpo's fortunes. Mokpo voters supported Kim Dae-jung as a presidential candidate, and his rivals are reported to have denied development funds to the city to drive population out of the city and reduce Kim Dae-jung's base of support.
Since Kim Dae-jung was elected, the Port of Mokpo has seen much new development. Today, it is building the South Jeolla provincial office building which will fix its status as the capital of the region after Gwangju becomes a self-governing special-status city.