The Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul
“And then, build a bustling wonderful city of the 21st century, with a restoration of a spectacular skyline, which Manhattan, of course, needs. So, that is really the design as a whole.” - Daniel Libeskind
The daunting scale at the Gyeongbok Palace intimidated me as a child, driving me to smaller palaces to favor and frequent in Seoul, South Korea. Although, when visitors came, my father usually recommended them to experience the Gyeongbok Palace, as it is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty.
As I matured and visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, my intimidation departed. I naturally became more comfortable with the Gyeongbok Palace after experiencing other grander palaces around the world. For instance, the size and the scale of the Gyeongbok Palace are much smaller in comparison to the Forbidden City in Beijing. However, solely based on numbers, you can see how grand it is: built with 330 buildings and 5,792 rooms, spread over 4,414,000 square feet (not so small).
By the way, Gyeonbokgung translates in English as Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven. Perhaps this is why the Japanese government largely destroyed the palace numerous times throughout Korean history; only about 40 percent of the original structure remains today. Immediately after the assassination of Empress Myeongseong by Japanese agents in 1895, her husband Emperor Gojong left the palace and never returned.
I believe the site to be a must-see in Korea along with the National Folk Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea, both located inside the palace. After having visited on multiple occasions, I would like to share some of the images, which focus more on smaller fragments. Since 1989, the Korean government started a 40-year initiative to rebuild and restore the palace, so in another 20 years, I hope to revisit and experience its full transformation, as close to its original beauty as possible.
Photos by D.B. Kim.