The Lunar New Year (Seolnal) is the biggest national holiday in Korea. Families hit the road and rail to visit their families around Korea, leaving the country's capital relatively peaceful. This past Wednesday I decided to engage in some cultural education of my own and found myself at the National Museum of Korea. I was joined by a surprising amount of locals, mostly young families, enjoy the holiday at Seoul’s premier museum.
In October 2005 the museum was reopen at the Yongsan family park, a patch of prime land that was once a recreational golf course for the U.S army based there. Interestingly, when the museum was first built there were concerns that the land at Yongsan Family Park was not suitable for such a structure. Precautions were taken to ensure that the foundations were properly reinforced and what stands there today is magnificent building beautifully showcasing Korea’s history and culture.
The museum can easily be found coming out of Ichon station in Seoul. Until April 30th use exit 3 as exit 2 is temporally close due to construction happening. It’s about a 150m for the station itself and it is very well sign posted. There isn’t really much else at this station so you can’t miss it.
The museum is made of up one large building containing the exhibition hall, education centre, and the special exhibition hall. The exhibition hall is free but the special exhibition hall requires a small fee. This week there was a Egyptian exhibition happening, check their website to find out what special displays are happening.
The museums surrounding area is well worth exploring. There is Cheongjajeong (Pavilion with celadon roof tiles) overlooking the reflecting pond, an open-air theatre, the reflecting pond’s restaurant, a botanical garden for traditional dyes, and the Dragon Falls. All add to the spectacle and make the trip well worth it, especially of the weather is one your side.
There are also a number of places to grab a bite to eat. In addition to the Korean style cafeteria, there are a number of smaller cafeterias, a food court, a café and the reflection pond restaurant if you want to add some class to your day trip.
For the English speakers, the museum offers a number of English guided tours as well as information guides and even an audio tour provided on cassette if you so wish. The information desk in the main exhibition hall will see that you are well equipped for your tour.
The National Museum of Korea is filled with well-presented pieces of Korean history. It’s easy to navigate and it’s grandness is a powerful reminder to the significance of days gone by.
-Christopher J. Wheeler-