Daegu, with a population of about 2.5 million people, is the fourth largest city in South Korea. Technically, it is administered separately from Gyeongsangbuk Province, but culturally/socially/geographically it’s part of Gyeongsangbuk Province.
Daegu was designated as the capital of Gyeongsang Province in 1601, and it became a proper city around that time. Daegu became an important commercial center, and by far its most famous market was the Yangnyeongsi, which was not only the largest market of medicinal herbs in all of the Joseon kingdom, but one of the most important medicinal herb markets in East Asia, which attracted many traders from China and Japan.
The Yangnyeongsi flourished until the Japanese took over Korea. The Yangnyeongsi merchants tended to have money and be interested in funding Korean independence movements, so the Japanese suppressed the market, and eventually closed it. It reopened after Korean independence.
Though the Yangnyeongsi is no longer in it’s original location, it is still in Daegu in a specially designated street full of sellers of traditional Korean medicine.
I happened to be there when there was some kind of festival so, among other things, I got to sample fried ginseng root and get some kind of massage from a machine (while waiting for the massage, I got to sit on a chunk of pink salt, which many Koreans believe to be healthy).
For more information about the Daegu Yangnyeongsi, you can check out the website of the Daegu Yangnyeongsi Museum of Oriental Medicine
The Nakdong river passes through Daegu, which means that Daegu was on the edge of the Nakdong Defense Perimeter during the June 25th War (a.k.a. Korean war). During the first part of the war, North Korea had a much more powerful military than South Korea, which is why North Korean forces were quickly conquering South Korea. It was obvious that North Korea would conquer the entire Korean peninsula if South Korea did not receive foreign military assistance, but getting foreign assistance required time, especially since the United States had greatly reduced its military presence in Asia after WWII.
The South Korean army, with the American troops which had managed to get to South Korea relatively quickly, established the Nakdong Defense Perimeter defending the southeastern corner of the Korean peninsula (including Busan, which could receive troops and supplies by sea). This was South Korea’s last resort – if North Korea had breached the perimeter, South Korea would have surrendered.
As it so happens, the South Koreans and Americans were able to maintain the perimeter, and a North Korean ship which was deployed to attack Busan just happened to be sunk by a lucky South Korean ship. South Korea was able to hold out until large-scale assistance from the United Nations arrived. Thus Daegu and Busan are the only large Korean cities which were never controlled by North Korea.
If you want to know more, you can look up the Battle of Daegu.
I was only in Daegu for a day, so I didn’t get to know the city well. The subway system was actually useful to me, unlike the subway systems in Gwangju and Daejeon. Overall, itt seems like a typical South Korean metropolis to me.