Located a short distance from Gyenbokgung Palace is Deoksugung. Originally (1593) a residence for Prince Wolsan, Deoksugung served as the main palace for the short-lived Great Han Empire (1897-1910) after the Japanese burned the palaces in the capital. Named Gyeongungung by the then-king Gwanghaegun, it then became a secondary palace after the king moved to Changdeokgung Palace in 1615. During its peak when serving as a main palace, it comprised of a space nearly three times the present size. This included the Hwangudan Altar, where rites to heaven were performed. When the Great Han Emperor Gojong relinquished his throne in 1907, Gyeongungung was downgraded to a residence. It was at this time that the name was changed to Deoksugung, meaning "palace of longevity," by then king Sunjong, in hopes that his father Gojong would live there in peace for a long time.
After the administrative complex and Hwangudan Altar were later removed, the palace lost its status as an important center. In 1904, four years after electricity was installed in the palace, most of the buildings were destroyed by fire. (Although not proven, it highly suspected that this fire was the result of arson at the hands of the Japanese, who wanted Emperor Gojong to move to another palace). In 1933, the Japanese destroyed most of the remaining palace buildings, sold the lots in public bidding, and developed a public park.
In spite of all of this, Deoksugung is still viewed as a symbolic seat of modern Korea, as it saw the country through several national crises, most notably the Japanese invasion (1592) and the tumultuous final years of the Great Han Empire.