With its geographically endowed fertile fields enclosed by Geumhogang River and its tributary Sincheon, Daegu has been home to a large population since prehistoric times, helping the settlers to create a rich and unique cultural heritage. Archaeologists have recently discovered microblades at the Paleolithic site in Wolseong-dong, revealing that the city saw its beginnings some twenty thousand years ago. They have also established how Neolithic people settled down on the alluvial lands around the small rivers to be found, such as today’s Seobyeon-dong in Buk-gu, Daebong-dong in Jung-gu, and Sang-dong in Suseong-gu. In the Bronze Age, numerous villages sprang up along the Geumhogang and Sincheon Rivers and continued to expand with their growing populations, eventually resulting in the development of clan-based political entities. These early settlers in this part of Korea left a wealth of cultural remains, including undecorated pottery and dolmens. The tribal state formed in today’s Daegu, in the first century BCE, was called either Dalgubeol or Dalgubul, and it was incorporated into Silla in the fourth century.
It was in 757, when Silla was under the rule of its 35th monarch King Gyeongdeok, that the kingdom began to use the name Daegu (大丘), literally “large hill.” Then the second Chinese character (丘) of the name was changed to the current one (邱), meaning “land”, in 1778 when it appeared in The Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty (Joseon Wangjo Sillok).
In the Silla Period, Buddhism exerted a strong influence across Daegu, resulting in the production of a wealth of Buddhist cultural heritages, including large monasteries, such as Donghwasa and Pagyesa, Buddhist statues, stone pagodas and temple bells. Daegu grew rapidly during the following Goryeo and Joseon Periods to become a political, military and transport hub in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula. Daegu’s population and agricultural production also grew rapidly. In 1448, the Joseon government, under King Sejong’s reign, established the country’s first Sachang or “communal granary” aimed at the relief of the poor. When the Imjin Waeran broke out when the Japanese invaded Korea in 1592, it played a central role in the valiant resistance shown by the regional civilian volunteer army. The strategic importance of the city was rediscovered during the war and led the government to establish the Provincial Office (Gamyeong) of Gyeongsang, laying a firm foundation for Daegu to further grow into a center of transportation, military and administration for the entire Yeongnam Region.
When Korea was forced to accept Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century, Daegu became a breeding ground of patriotic movements that culminated in the National Debt Repayment Movement, a movement held in 1907 to receive people’s donations to pay off the national debt the Korean Government owed to Japan. The city also continued to breed civilian patriots that continued to fight for Korean independence and freedom until the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945.
The role of Daegu in the protection of democracy and freedom continued even after the colonial era. It became the last stronghold to maintain the Nakdonggang Defense Line against the North Korean communist forces during the Korean War (1950-1953) and bred the February 28 Democratic Students Movement in 1960, which made an important contribution to the April 19th Revolution.
In the 1960s, the city underwent rapid industrial development, surpassing its rival cities in the textile industry in particular. In the following decade, Daegu grew into one of the country’s three largest cities along with Seoul and Busan. Daegu in the 21st century is one of the most thriving metropolitan cities in the region, providing venues for some of the world’s largest cultural events, such as the 2003 Summer Universiade and the 2011 IAAF World Championships. Today, the city is committed to ensuring a new, brighter future under the motto “Daegu, a Global Leader of Knowledge-Based Economy” via its systematic efforts directed at developing its knowledge industry, green growth, and education and culture.