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In prehistoric times, Yangyang was called Dongye, Ikhyeon-hyeon (also Imun-hyeon) of Goguryeo in the Three Kingdoms Period and Suseong-gun (Yeong-hyeon) during the Unified Shilla Period.
 
After the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, its name was changed to Yangyang-gun and in May 1919 during the Imperial Japanese period, Toseong-myeon and Jukwang-myeon were included into Yangyang-gun with the dissolution of Ganseong-gun. On January 9, 1999 in accordance to the Yangyang-gun Ordinance 1635, Shinjinri in Hyeonam-myeon was divided and included into Ingu1-ri and Duchangshibyeon-ri respectively. Thus, there are currently 1 eup, 5 myeons and 124 ris.
The name Yangyang comes from Langya located in the Hansu coastline in Hubei, China. Its beautiful nature and geographical environment was said to be similar, while the people were also said to be obedient to the providence of nature. They named it Yangyang because there are brilliant literary works of gentlemen, Their cultures are beautiful and as a result, it is a better town than any other towns. It is said that Hyeonsan, Hansu (Namdaecheon), Musan, Nokmun (Incheon), Taepyeongru, etc were named in relation to Langya of China.