Deoksugung Palace was originally called Gyeongungung Palace. After succeeding to the throne from King Gojong, King Sunjong renamed the palace as Deoksugung in hope of King Gojong's healthy and long life when he moved to Changdeokgung Palace. In the palace, visitors can learn about the history of the late Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire and see the traditions and the modern times of Korea.
The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony is held everyday in front of Deoksugung Palace Daehanmun Gate. Tourists often stop here and watch the ceremony. The coexistence of Korean traditional and western-style architectural characteristics of Deoksugung Palace create a unique atmosphere that attracts many onlookers. The palace looks peaceful, but it is actually a living testament of the turbulent period of the Korean Empire.
Deoksugung Palace first appeared in history when the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592 broke out. As the royal palace was destroyed during the war, King Seonjo moved to the private residence of Prince Wolsan and used it as a temporary royal palace. Later, King Gwanghaegun moved to the newly constructed Changdeokgung Palace and renamed it as Gyeongungung Palace in hope for Joseon's good fortune. Gyeongungung Palace became Deoksugung Palace when the destiny of Joseon changed. In the late Joseon Dynasty, which was a time of chaos, King Gojong proclaimed the Korean Empire after Agwan Pacheon (King Gojong’s Flight to the Russian Legation) and proceeded to claim that Joseon was an independent nation. However, it was thwarted by Imperial Japan and King Gojong abdicated soon after. After succeeding to the throne from King Gojong, King Sunjong renamed the palace as Deoksugung in hopes for King Gojong's healthy and long life when he moved to Changdeokgung Palace.
Deoksugung Palace embodies the history of Joseon and the Korean Empire. Junghwajeon Hall, the main hall of Deoksugung Palace, references a ‘balanced nature’. It implied that the Korean Empire would never submit to world powers.
Seogeodang Hall and Jeukjodang Hall possess the longest history in Deoksugung Palace. Seogeodang Hall, the only building with a two-tiered roof in Deoksugung Palace, was used as a temporary residence of King Seonjo. In Jeukjodang Hall, King Injo, who dethroned King Gwanghaegun, ascended the throne.
The most notable building in Deoksugung Palace could very well be Seokjojeon Hall. This western-style structure represents the ideal of becoming a modern nation that King Gojong aimed for. Even though Seokjojeon Hall is a western-style building, it has a pattern of plum blossoms that references the Korean Empire. Seokjojeon Hall symbolized a modern nation. However, colonial exploitation by Imperial Japan caused Seokjojeon Hall to be unable to play a role as a royal palace. Now, it is being utilized as the Daehan Empire History Museum.
King Gojong resided and died at Hamnyeongjeon Hall. Next to Hamnyeongjeon Hall, there is Deokhongjeon Hall where King Gojong met with foreign envoys. Gyeonghyojeon Hall, where Empress Myeongseong's tablet used to be enshrined, was previously located here, but was destroyed by a fire in 1904.
Jeonggwanheon Pavilion is famous for being a place where King Gojong enjoyed coffee. It was a rest area of King Gojong and a place for foreign delegations. It is one of the western-style buildings that were constructed when Deoksugung Palace became the royal palace of the Korean Empire. Jeonggwanheon Pavilion was designed by a Russian architect. Jeonggwanheon means "the place to see the world silently". We can almost visualize King Gojong agonizing over political affairs.
After looking around Deoksugung Palace, walk down Deoksugung Stone Wall Path, known for being a street of romance. You can learn more about modern history in this place. Feel and experience the traces of the Korean Empire throughout Jeong-dong.
Just like the nickname of Jeong-dong, "the first destination of modern history", the Former Russian Legation, Baejae School, Ewha School, Chungdong First Methodist Church, and Former Supreme Court Building still retain traces of the time of enlightenment and the Japanese colonial era and reveal the painful history of Korea.
The historical and romantic festival "Jeong-dong Culture Night" is held in Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, every spring and autumn.