The next few days are going to be Korean history days. You’ll see what I mean in the coming posts. My first stop: visit the “gung” (or as some of you are more familiar with, “goong”), or at least one of them. There’s plenty of palaces in Seoul, so my deciding factor in choosing the first I would visit was proximity to the hostel.

It was a quick walk from the hostel (almost everything is), just a bit past City Hall. No more than half an hour. I wanted to take a few photos of City Hall, but there was a very large protest happening at Seoul Plaza blocking my view. According to the news, taxi drivers were gathered in a nationwide strike to protest the rise in fuel prices and asking the government to raise the price of taxi fares. 

The turnout was impressive and reached all the way to the palace. It was nearly impossible to make my way through the crowd and to the palace gates. I think I was lucky to even get in, considering security closed the gates soon after I entered. I was also allowed to enter for free, as many people watching the strike were entering to rest in the shaded areas of the palace. Or at least that’s why I think they just waved me through without taking my 1000 won note. Or perhaps my guidebook is simply outdated.

Despite being one the smaller palaces, the grounds of Deoksugung are still quite large, with many buildings having been restored. After the Japanese invasion of 1592, which left the main palaces destroyed, it was used as a temporary palace, and later became only a residence for the royal family, with the palace’s administrative complex being removed.

Deoksugung is also the only palace to have modern buildings mixed within the traditional architecture. One, Jeonggwanheon, mixes both western and eastern architecture, while Seokjojeon, and entirely western looking stone building, was used as King Gojong’s sleeping quarters and audience halls.

Along with Seokjojeon is the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum was free to visit, although I here it depends of the specific exhibition featured. While I was there, “The Centennial Celebration of Lee In-Sung’s Birth) was the main exhibit.

Leaving the palace was a tad confusing. The gates had closed, and I originally thought that no one would be allowed either in or out. At least there were plenty of shaded areas around the grounds. After continuing to wander around aimlessly for a few minutes, I timidly walked up to security by the gate, asking if I would be able to leave. He pointed to the side, which led to a small enclave housing a side door to the plaza. Upon opening the door, I realized why the gates were closed. Protesters were sitting and standing, backs pressed against the gates. It was a pain to try and make my way through them all.

In an attempt to avoid the strike, I decided to risk getting lost and try and make my way around the plaza and the crowds. My trip brought me past the Canadian Embassy, as well as a few others. About a block ahead is Seodaemun District, which I like to call the museum district as there are nearly ten on one street. I also walked by Geobukgung, the main palace as I looked for the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. Turns out the statue is situated right in front of the palace. I believe the university is planning a field trip there sometime. Or at least I hope so, or else I probably won’t get a chance to visit. (I’m just waiting for this supposed field trip as I don’t want to visit twice.)

Look what I found!