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Seoul’s royal palaces to be hub of traditional culture

For those who have missed the chance to experience Seoul’s royal palaces at night or see a gugak concert in the court garden last year, the year 2012 will come as an exciting one.

More cultural events and educational programs will take place in the four royal palaces in Seoul ―Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Deoksugung ― as well as Jongmyo shrine this year, including court cuisine sessions, gugak concerts, and late-night tours, Cultural Heritage Administration announced during a press meeting on Tuesday.

Along with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Korea Tourism Organization, the heritage administration in 2009 started a project to turn Seoul’s royal palaces into a world-famous tourist attraction. The project consisted of holding cultural and educational events at the palaces, more tour programs accompanied by historians, and having more palace buildings open to the public. 
A picturesque view of Changdeokgung during a late-night tour of the palace (Cultural Heritage dministration)
A picturesque view of Changdeokgung during a late-night tour of the palace (Cultural Heritage dministration)

Almost all of last year’s programs will be once again held at the palaces this year, along with newly organized events. Among them, last year’s hit late-night tour program “Moonlight Trail of Changdeokgung” will be held in 20 sessions from April to October. A total of 18 sessions were held last year. History experts will accompany tour participants and performances of Korea’s traditional music will be included as part of the tour.

At Gyeongbokgung’s Gyeonghoeru, a building surrounded by a pond where court banquets used to be held during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), a special late-night gugak concert will be held seven times in March and September. Titled “Gyeonghoeru Yeonhyang,” the program comprises Korea’s traditional dance, vocal and instrumental music.

The concert was held twice last year as trial performances, and received extremely enthusiastic response from the audiences, according to the heritage administration. One of the highlights of the concert is the performance of “Sailor’s Song” in Korea’s traditional vocal and percussion music “pansori” piece “Simcheongga.” Its female performer sings the piece on a boat on the pond of Gyeonghoeru under the moonlight.

One of the newly organized programs this year is Korea’s traditional court cuisine sessions in Gyeongbokgung. Using the palace’s storage for Korea’s different kinds of soy sauce and soybean paste, participants will be given an opportunity to learn how they were made by court chefs during the Joseon Dynasty. They will also be able to make the paste on their own at the palace, with the help of the experts.

At Changgyeonggung, scholars will be giving lectures on Korea’s royal culture, history and philosophy in August.

The administration recently created a calendar which summarizes all the events taking place in the palaces this year. The calendars will soon be translated into English, Japanese, and Chinese and will be distributed to each palace in Seoul, travel agencies and tourism information centers, the organization said. For more information about this year’s royal palace programs, visit

By Claire Lee (
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Korea Herald daum