Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seoul Museums: Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Folk Museum, and the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

Museums are not only educational and enriching, but they are also a great way to burn calories between meals.  Some museums can even make you hungrier for your next meal.

Under the grueling summer heat, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is a lot to take in.  Meaning, "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven", the royal palace was first constructed in 1395 and later reconstructed in 1867.  Much of it was destroyed by Imperial Japan in the early 20th century.  Since then, the government has gradually restored the structures and the grounds back to its original form.  It is the main and largest of the Five Grand Palaces.  And when they say largest, they really mean it.  It is overwhelming large, and it's so easy to get lost with the numerous gates, courtyards, quarters and halls.

Within the palace grounds, the National Folk Museum stands in the rear, or by a free side entrance if you wish to bypass the palace.  Speaking of free, all museums' main exhibits are free.  I'm still amazed how these museums, which should charge a lot for entrance because of their quality and quantity of displays, are completely free.  It encourages tourists and locals to learn more.  The museum has over 98,000 artifacts.  These are replicas of historical objects that illustrate the history of traditional life of the Korean people.  The 3 main halls cover: 1) the history of the Korean people through their materials of everyday life from prehistoric times to the end of the Joseon Dynasty in 1910, 2) the Korean way of life through the villagers in ancient times, and 3) the life cycle of Korean highlighting the influence of Confucianism.  The most fascinating parts of the museum for me were the food history areas which explained the past and present use of dining ware and the process of kimchi making.

Just outside the palace grounds, next to the US Embassy (the building with a ridiculous amount of guards stationed every 3 feet along the sidewalk) is the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.  Regrettably I took one photo because I was so fascinated and drawn to all the content of the museum.  It was my favorite museum of the bunch by far.  We sought out this museum because we wanted to learn about the Korean War and how the country moved its way to being one of the top global leaders today.  This is the first national modern contemporary museum in Korea, which opened late 2012.  It covers politics, the economy, society, and culture of the Korean country and people in 4 detailed halls: 1) the prelude to the Republic of Korea from 1876 to 1945, 2) the foundation of the Republic of Korea from 1945 to 1960, 3) the development of the Republic of Korea from 1961 to 1987, and finally 4) the modernization and Korea's vision of the future from 1988 on.  It is truly admirable how the country coped from the war and how successfully they have thrived in recent years.  I have so much more respect for the country and its people, in large part because of what I learned from this museum.

Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds
And the Heungnyemun Gate in the background

Main entrance gate
Gwanghwamun Gate

History amidst the modern city

Geunjeongjeon Throne Hall

Painted wood all around

One of many courtyards

National Folk Museum

Eating trays and bowls

Noodle maker


A look their dining setup

Kitchen storage

Kitchen stoves

Kimchi jars
Cute figurines depicting how kimchi is made

The history of kimchi


More of the figurines

And even more.

View of the Gyeongbokgung Palace from the Contemporary History Museum

National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

No comments: