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Gongju was the capital of the ancient Baekje Kingdom from A.D. 475 to 539, when the capital was moved farther south, to Buyeo, to stay out of the reach of the Shilla Kingdom, which was gradually snatching up territory (the Shillas eventually unified the peninsula in the 7th c.). Although many remains from this ancient civilization -- and remains from Paleolithic settlements, dating back 20,000 to 30,000 years -- are present here, the main attraction of this sleepy little city is the Gongju National Museum.

Two major mountain ranges (Charyeongsan and Gyeryongsan) are located near the city, and the Geumgang (Geum River) runs through Gongju from east to west. Since Charyeongsan blocks the northern winds in the winter, the city is a bit warmer than those to its north.

Every year in October the Baekje Cultural Festival, one of the three best festivals in the country, is held either here or in Buyeo. There are about 100 events held throughout the area, including ceremonies for the four great Baekje Kings, a mask parade, folk-art events, and cultural performances.