Ken’s Epic Korean Vacation Adventure: Day 4

Posted: August 16, 2012 in Ken's Epic Korean Vacation Adventure, South Korea

My horribly, horribly long-overdue and no longer relevant attempt to shore up some loose ends  in South Korea and share a few more experiences.   I’m considering firing myself for missing so many deadlines but nonetheless, enjoy!

Day 4:  Gyeongbok Palace and Palace Museum

After taking in the sights and sounds of the War Memorial of Korea, both inside and out, on consecutive days — largely because, as previously noted, I’m a horrible vacation planner — it was time to take in more peaceful pursuits at one of Seoul’s many palaces from the Joseon Dynasty.  The palace we chose was Gyeongbokgung Palace or, more simply (not really), Gyeongbok Palace.

Gyeongbok Palace is one of the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty and one of six total located around Seoul.  The Joseon Dynasty was in power from 1392-1897, with Gyeongbok Palace being the main palace and largest of the five.   When the Joseon Dynasty began its decline in the late 1800s, King Gojong declared himself Emperor in 1897 and formally changed the name of the Joseon Dynasty to the Korean Empire.   The Korean Empire lasted until 1910 before the Japanese and the Russians (among several other opportunistic nations) seized the moment and duked it out for the rights to the peninsula.  The pesky Japanese eventually won out and officially annexed the Korean Empire under Japanese rule and before they were bombing Pearl Harbor, they were burning down the beautiful palaces of the Joseon Dynasty.

After WWII drove the Japanese out and the Korean War pushed the North Koreans, well, north, the South Korean government began the long process of restoring and rebuilding all that had been burned down by the Japanese and/or destroyed during the war.  As it pertains to Gyeongbok Palace today, nearly half of all original buildings at the palace are still standing or have been reconstructed.

What struck me as being most impressive was the sheer size and expanse of the complex.  Once you step foot in the complex, you’re completely immersed in the palace experience, so much so that there are even hourly recreations of a changing of the guard.  I felt like I was an extra in the filming of The Last Samurai, except without a crazy Tom Cruise running around talking nonsense between takes.

Changing of the Guard:  I totally could have done the drummer’s job.

Along with touring the palace, we had the opportunity to walk through the Palace Museum which was also housed on the complex, albeit in much more modern accommodations.  The museum was conveniently free and started with artifacts dating all the way back to the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty through the Korean Empire just prior to Japanese rule.

A ride fit for Ken: “General Motors (seriously), for ALL your empire needs!”

After sight-seeing at modern-day attractions and touring mostly modern history museums, it was nice to take a more in-depth walk through the ancient history and culture of South Korea and its people.  The buildings of the palace were nothing short of amazing and the museum was full of fascinating relics and interesting information.  We definitely had a lot of fun experiencing the palace and I think the biggest success of the day was that my Dad finally found a palace that fit his retirement needs.

King Ken meets his castle.

  1. Baker says:

    Pretty awesome story man! This place shall now be known as – Ken’s Kingdom.

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