Kaesong or Kaisong (both: kăˈsŭngˈ) [key], Jap. Kaijo, city (1993 pop. 334,433), S North Korea. A long-time commercial center, it is important for its exports of ginseng, a valuable medicinal root. There is also active trade in rice, barley, and wheat. Textiles are made in the city, and there is some heavy industry. A special economic zone has been established where South Korean firms manufacture products for export; a highway connects the zone with South Korea.
In the 10th cent. Wang Kon, founder of the Koryo dynasty, made Kaesong his capital; the city, then called Songdo, remained Korea's capital until 1392, when the Choson (or Yi) dynasty moved the capital to Seoul. Intersected by the 38th parallel, Kaesong served as the main contact point between North and South Korea from 1945 to 1951 and passed from United Nations to North Korean forces several times during the Korean War. The armistice talks, first held at Kaesong, were later transferred to Panmunjom (Panmunjeom). Historic landmarks include the tombs of several Korean kings, the old city walls, and the remains of a royal palace from the Koryo period.