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An Overview of Korea's Palaces - 5

The Silhouettes of the Five Grand Palaces Remaining in the Metropolitan City

The Five Grand Palaces Faced with Ordeals

The five grand palaces in Seoul were faced with ordeals during the Japanese colonial period between 1910 and 1945. With the ruler absent, the palaces lost their reason for existing. Changdeokgung Palace, the residence of Emperor Sunjong, remained relatively intact, but the other palaces were either used as parks or for other purposes by Japanese colonialists. Gyeonghuigung Palace lost its original shape after being used as a school. Gyeongungung Palace retained only part of its central building after its name was changed to Deoksugung Palace. Changgyeonggung Palace was changed into a playground with a zoo and a botanical garden. The appearance and the image of Gyeongbokgung Palace were severely tarnished when the Japanese Government-General of Korea building was established right in front of it.

Renovation of the Palaces

Right after Korea's liberation from Japan in 1945, the palaces were still used as citizens' parks. It was not until the 1970s that the attempt to restore the sites to their former status was made in earnest. As part of the effort, four of the palaces (excluding Gyeonghuigung Palace) were designated as state-registered cultural properties to prevent them from being damaged or deformed further. With the establishment of the Seoul Grand Park, a largescale zoo in the suburb of Seoul, in the mid-1980s, all the animals at Changgyeonggung Palace were relocated. Part of Changgyeonggung Palace, meanwhile, was restored to its original shape. In the 1990s, the hitherto neglected Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace were renovated. The demolition of the Japanese Government-General of Korea building in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace in August 1995 was a symbolic event for the restoration of Joseon Dynasty palaces. Some argued that the Japanese Government-General building should not be destroyed, but the government was resolute in doing so. Thereafter, other major buildings of Gyeongbokgung Palace were restored one by one. The restoration of Gwanghwamun Gate as the main palace gate to its original shape with the same materials in August 2010 was the highlight of the government's restoration project.
Sejong-daero Street

The Sejong-daero Street, the Central Road of Seoul

With the restoration of Gwanghwamun Gate, the Yukjodaero received a new spotlight. Sejong-daero had been called Sejongno since 1946 because King Sejong, the fourth monarch of Joseon, had lived nearby at a young age. The street symbolized the central road of the nation during the Joseon period. In the twentieth century, it has played its role as one of the main streets in terms of politics. Originally 50 meters in width, the street expanded in width to 100 meters in the 1970s, making itself the widest road in Seoul. In 2010, it had a new name of Sejong-daero symbolizing its central role in the nation's history and culture.

Currently, Sejong-daero is one of the most attractive cultural destinations for Seoul citizens. Along with the towering Mt. Bugaksan standing aloft at its back, Gyeongbokgung Palace remains the major symbol of Seoul. Changdeokgung Palace and Changgyeonggung Palace, located in the east of Gyeongbokgung Palace, play the role of outdoor museums boasting of unique beauty of curves being harmonized with the natural surroundings. Especially the dense forest and a pond at the back garden of Changdeokgung Palace and the wave of buildings in between attract the attention of the visitors. Though it had comparatively fewer relics, Gyeonghuigung Palace displays the force of architecture with the gigantic rocky mountain as the background. Deoksugung Palace, in downtown Seoul, shows a harmony of Western-style architecture and traditional Korean palace buildings. Young office workers nearby enter the palace and enjoy their leisure time on a bench under the tree. This, too, is part of the ongoing legacy of the palaces of Seoul.

Infokorea 2016
Infokorea is Korea introduced a magazine designed for readers with an interest in Korea and other foreign producers textbooks and teachers. Infokorea is the author of textbooks or foreign editors and reference to textbooks, Korea provides the latest information that teachers can use in teaching resources. Infokorea also provides cultural, social and historical topics featured in Korea. The theme of the 2016 issue was overview of Korea's palaces.

Publication | The Academy of Korean Studies

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