Seoul Museum of History

Seoul Museum of History

Seoul Museum of History opened in May 2002 on the grounds of Gyeonghuigung (Gyeonghui Palace) in historic central Seoul. The construction plan for the building was initially created in 1985, but construction was delayed due to public concern that the construction of a modern building within the palace walls would detract the site’s cultural heritage. Accordingly, the original building plans were greatly reduced and were finally authorized by the Cultural Properties Committee. Construction was completed in September 1993 and the museum opened on 21 May 2002.

The site on which the museum sits was used as a main playground for Kyungsung Middle School, which was established in 1910 by the Japanese colonial government. Between 1907 and 1910, almost the entire palace, which had been used as a residence for about ten kings of the Joseon dynasty over a period of 280 years, was destroyed by the Japanese. With the 1910 installation of Kyungsung Middle School for Japanese citizens, the parts of the palace left standing were razed. After colonial rule, the site was greatly damaged again during the Korean War, when it was used as a military hospital by the US Army. After the war, Seoul High School used the site, before it was purchased by the Hyundai construction company to build their new company building. The Seoul Metropolitan government later purchased the site  and restored the palace to its current state.

photo by Kim Song Jung

The Seoul Museum of History was designed by architect Kim Jong Sung. His plan incorporates a utilitarian use of modern industrial materials such as steel and glass that surround a simple mass. Thecolors of Kim’s structure complement the surrounding traditional architecture of Gyeonghui Palace, yet the straight lines and unadorned features of his façade present a dynamic contrast to the historic presence of the site.

Currently, the Seoul Museum of History serves its purpose as a public museum that presents the history and culture of Seoul, but it is important to note that the site of the museum is one related to a shared memory, reinforcing the story of Seoul’s turbulent history.

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