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The capital of Gangwon-do, the city lies in the northwestern part of the county in a basin formed by the Soyang and Han rivers. Called the "Lake City," Chuncheon serves as the gateway to the northeastern corner of South Korea. The area was first occupied by tribal people about 1,000 years ago. It had several names before it got its present name, Chuncheon, in 1418. An important city even during the Shilla Dynasty, it served as one of the fortress cities, to protect Seoul in the 17th century. It has been the capital of the province since 1896. Like in many of the cities in the area, most of the infrastructure was destroyed during the Korean War, but it has been rebuilt since.

The city serves as the center for the agricultural products of surrounding communities. The main products in the area are soybeans and rice, but the area is known for its dak galbi (a spicy chicken dish cooked with vegetables).

The city hosts the annual Chuncheon Puppet Festival as well as the Chuncheon Mime Festival.

Although it has grown into a sprawling city in the past couple of decades, it has maintained the sleepiness of a small town. The older downtown section has remained compact, although it has become more modernized. It has seen a huge growth in domestic visitors ever since it was featured in the popular South Korean television drama Winter Sonata.