Tag Archives: Joseon

Candid shots of Seoul this week

Having a relative visit us here in Seoul has (thankfully) forced me out of the apartment this week. Here are a few candid shots from the last few days I thought you might enjoy:

Hadn’t seen this part of Incheon International Airport before. Pretty futuristic looking. 

Incheon International Airport

Came across this demonstration on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Sewol ferry disaster (must watch video — so many people!).

Demonstrations 2


Continue reading Candid shots of Seoul this week

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A Walk Among the Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs

When I went to the National Museum of Korea last month, I remember reading about some of the excavation sites at the Goryeo Dynasty royal tombs in Gaeseong. Of course, because they had artifacts from those excavations on display. I saw a photo of these huge grassy mounds, and my guide kept telling me I needed to go see them in person.

It turns out, most of the 40 Joseon Dynasty royal tombs are located within 40 km of Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of Seoul. Nice! I didn’t know I had royal tombs so nearby.  So, I decided to visit the Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tomb site in Gangnam. I knew the grass wouldn’t be green yet — it is still March, and cold — but, why wait? I have so many things on my to-do list for when the weather warms up and trees and flowers bloom. Better check this one off my list now.

The Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tomb site (and all Joseon-era royal tombs, in fact) is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, like many of the palaces in Seoul.

It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

Fascinatingly enough, the entire lineage of the Joseon kingdom from 1392 to 1910 is accounted for among the tombs. This particular site in Gangnam houses the royal tombs of King Seongjong (9th ruler,1457-1494), his third wife Queen Jeonghyeon (1462-1530), and King Jungjong (11th ruler, 1488-1544). Continue reading A Walk Among the Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs

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

Getting Artsy with some Traditional Korean Dance

There are many theaters and venues in Seoul where you can enjoy some traditional Korean performing arts — from plays to dance to non-verbal performances. We recently visited two of these, the Jeongdong Theater and the Korea House, and I’ll just go ahead and say it, I loved the shows at both places.

Jeongdong Theater could be considered your small, local theater. It’s tucked away in the historic Jeong-dong neighborhood of Seoul, near the Deoksugung Palace and Seoul Museum of Art. They do performances twice a night, every night except Mondays, and tickets aren’t too expensive (40,000-60,000 won). We went on a Saturday night to see “MISO: Baebijang-jeon,” based on a classical novel written by an unknown author during the Joseon dynasty. Continue reading Getting Artsy with some Traditional Korean Dance

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

The hidden hangouts of Seoul City Hall

I’ve been curious to visit the new Seoul City Hall building since I first saw it. Its striking wave-like glass design makes you wonder what kind of modernities you might find inside. Here’s a picture from a previous post in case you’ve forgotten:

The new Seoul City Hall. It's the glass building in the rear that looks like a wave. The former city hall in front is now the Seoul Metropolitan Library.
The new Seoul City Hall. It’s the glass building in the rear that looks like a wave. The former city hall in front is now the Seoul Metropolitan Library.

Little did I know, you actually can go on a self-guided tour of new (and old) City Hall — they make it easy by providing small booklets that guide you step-by-step through the various things to see. I was just looking for a place to grab a drink and do some work, so that was a pleasant surprise.

A bit of background before I take you on part of the tour. The new City Hall opened not that long ago in 2012. It has 13 floors above ground and five floors underground, and is designed to be eco-friendly, of course.The former City Hall, which sits in front of it, was turned into the Seoul Metropolitan Library. Continue reading The hidden hangouts of Seoul City Hall

Secret Garden Fit for a King

Many kings, actually. Yesterday we visited Changdeokgung Palace, built in 1405 and — second to the Gyeongbokgung Palace — the palace from which many Joseon dynasty emperors ruled, including the last reigning one, Emperor Sunjong, who ruled until 1910. Like the Jongmyo Shrine, this palace is also a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the way its buildings and design are integrated with nature. It was Will’s first palace visit in Seoul.

The palace grounds are immense, 110 acres if I remember correctly. Many different areas and so many buildings — whether housing quarters for queens, concubines, princes, or staff, or meeting halls, ceremonial halls, horse stables, storage rooms, etc. — it’s easy to get lost looking around. We were there for hours and I still don’t think we saw everything. Once you pay admission into the palace, you can explore freely. If you want to visit the palace’s Secret Garden, however, you need to pay a separate admission fee and go in with a guided tour group. They give the tours in various languages, several times daily.

The Secret Garden (aka Rear Garden) is even larger than the main palace grounds, taking up almost 60 percent of the entire area of the Changdeokgung Palace. Its acres and acres are filled with ponds, streams, gazebos, pavilions and many beautiful walking paths. The garden was meant as a place for the kings and their royal family members to relax, but also used for military exercises, archery contests, banquets and growing certain grains. Since it is also located next to the Changgyeonggung Palace, it was used by members of both palaces.

Continue reading Secret Garden Fit for a King