Monday, March 25, 2013

British Eyesore in the Palace

Yes, I'm still in the Deoksugung Palace. What is this neoclassical building doing here, you might ask? In a culture that so prided itself with conformity and harmony, this building (in a Korean palace) looks more like an eyesore to me. Designed by a British architect during the time of the Great Han Empire, much of the construction was actually done by a Japanese civil engineering company that was notorious for smuggling out thousands of cultural treasures to Japan. It was built as part of the Empire's push to modernize. Unlike other palace buildings that each had a unique, singular purpose, Seokjojeon was intended to have multiple functions. Its lower floor was a waiting area for servants, the second floor as a reception area, and the third floor was to be the residence for Emperor Gojong. In actuality, the building was rarely used. Following the death of Emperor Gojong, the Japanese expanded the west wing of Seokjojeon to become the Yiwangga Art Museum. After the Korean War, it was changed into National Museum and then the Royal Museum. Currently the museum is undergoing restoration.

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