Category Archives: Museum

My Private Tour of the National Museum of Korea

The National Museum of Korea in Yongsan offers plenty of guided tours, but I partly kid when I say my tour was “private.” The only reason I ended up getting a private, one-on-one tour of this grand museum is because no one else showed up for the 10:30am English tour! It was just me and my guide, a nice Korean man who spent several years living in San Francisco, so his English was pretty good.

According to my tour book, the National Museum of Korea is the largest museum in Asia. According to the Korea tourism website, it’s the largest museum in Korea. Either way, it’s massive. While the museum has a collection of more than 150,000 pieces, it actually only displays roughly 15,000 of these at any given time.

Admission is free for the permanent exhibition, but varies for their special exhibitions (more on these later). The permanent exhibition is spread across three floors and is divided into the following sections: Prehistory & Ancient History, Medieval & Early Modern History, Calligraphy & Painting, Donated Works, Sculpture & Crafts, and Asian Art. I had no idea — until my guide pointed it out, of course — that the museum contains numerous Korean national treasures. These include including the Pensive Bodhisattva, Goryeo Celadon Openwork Burner, Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa  Site, and Gold Crown from Silla. Continue reading My Private Tour of the National Museum of Korea

Korean Folk Village – a journey back in time

I feel like I’m slacking on my blog posts. Sorry, guys. Where does the time go?

Last weekend we traveled out of Seoul — I think, technically — to Yongin to visit the Korean Folk Village. We took the train to Sinnonhyeon Station (exit 6), and walked a bit to catch Express Bus 5001-1 to the park. Yes, it’s a park, a theme park re-creation of a Joseon Dynasty-era village.

We expected the weather to be warmer but no such luck. It was SO cold! Amazingly enough, there were still plenty of other tourists at the Korean Folk Village. The place is enormous, 245 acres to be exact. There’s a pretty river flowing through it, and mountains behind it, and lots of trees (which are unfortunately bare right now!). You can see and walk through many different types of traditional Korean houses — including a nobleman’s mansion, a large landowner’s house, a farmer’s house, a mountain village home, and traditional homes from Jeju island and Ullung island. Continue reading Korean Folk Village – a journey back in time

If old prison walls could talk

This might seem like a morbid post for some of you, but I was intrigued by the Seodaemun Prison History Hall and the stories those walls had to tell. I don’t believe I’ve ever visited a former prison, and definitely not one that housed prisoners of war.

Seodaemun Prison is located at Seodaemun Independence Park in Seoul. It was built in 1908 and used during the colonial period of Japanese occupation to house Korean independence activists. (After the colonial period ended in 1945, it was used by the South Korean government until 1987.) I shouldn’t say “house,” since many of them were brutally tortured and then executed. The prison was built to accommodate about 500 people, but eventually housed more than 3,000 prisoners simultaneously at the height of protests. They were cramped, their cells had no heating in the winter and no cooling in the summer. They ate small rations of rice and were forced to work long days on the complex building bricks and military uniforms.

The prison is now a museum and a self-guided tour takes you through most of the buildings. You can step into regular cells and isolation cells. You can see the basement where the Japanese interrogated and tortured prisoners upon arrival (life-like scenes are recreated in case you can’t picture the torture clearly enough in your mind), including the various torture devices used. You can also visit the lepers’ building, the outdoor exercise facility and the execution building. Continue reading If old prison walls could talk