The name means "Palace" [Gung] "Greatly Blessed by Heaven." The largest of Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty, this royal palace in northern Seoul was first constructed in 1395 by King Taejo, and continuously expanded during the following decades. During the Japanese invasions of 1592-1598 it was burned to the ground and abandoned for almost three centuries. Reconstructed during the regency of Daewongun in 1867, the massive complex had 330 buildings and 5,792 rooms.
Much off the palace was destroyed again during 35 years of Japanese occupation in the early 20th century. The colonial government also restricted the use of the Korean language and the practice of local religions. The Korean war caused more damage, but with the post-war economic recovery, restorations began anew. Japan's Government-General Building was demolished in 1996, and by 2009 about 40% of the palace buildings had been restored or reconstructed, Still, only Geunjeongjeon, the Imperial Throne Hall, Gyeonghoeru and Hyangwonjeong Pavilions, and Jagyeongjeon, Jibokjae, Sajeongjeon, and Sujeongjeon Halls survived from among the 19th-century buildings. Further restoration is expected to take an additional 20 years.
Today, the site is open to the public and houses the National Folk Museum of Korea, the National Palace Museum of Korea, and traditional gardens. The changing of the guard at the main gate at Gwanghwamun each hour beween 10am and 3pm, is now among the most popular tourists attractions - a modern contrivence modeled after ceremonies at Buckingham Palace in London.
The largest traditional street market in Seoul, open daily except Sunday at the center of the city; with wholesale clothing, accessories, kitchenware, toys, electronics, cosmetics, ginseng and medicinal herbs, dried squid and octopus, imported foods, liquor, glasses, contact lenses, sunglasses, sports gear, blankets, carpets, and more. Over 10,000 stores in all, most open late. Go to Hoehyeon Subway Station (LIne 4), Exit 5.
Korean street food served from from tent covered stalls untill really late into the night for the after-the-bars/clubs crowd, plastic tables and chairs packed with party mode Koreans discussing the weeks events at work or school. Pancakes, tempora, noodles, rice cakes, and cheap beer can be found in Itaewon, near the subway station (Line 6, Exit 2). See a CNN article about pojangmacha. A number of tents near exit 4 of Jongno 3 Ga (종로 3 가) subway station serve up tasty anju (Korean food consumed with alcohol) for an animated throng of gay men.
The King & the Clown, (王的男人 Wang-ui namja): Yeonsangun, a Joseon dynasty king, is mocked by two male street performers Jangsaeng and Gong-gil, and the two are arrested. Permitted to present a skit at court, they must make Yeonsangun laugh, or die. They succeed, but the king falls for the beautiful boy, making him his favorite, and fomenting jealousies among his courtiers and Jangsaeng. In a bittersweet-tragic ending, the two young men are reunited. The 2005 film was adapted from the Korean stage play Yi, written by Kim Tae-woong.
No Regret (후휘하지않아), made in 2006, known as the first real Korean gay feature film, directed by an openly gay Korean filmmaker (Leeson Hee-il), explores desire and class through the story of love between two men. Su-min, an 18-year-old orphan turned out into the streets, is emotionally hard and working in a host bar. At first rejecting the love of one of his cllients, Jae-min, he is finally won over. But Jae-min's mother, insisting her son will marry after discovering their relationship, causes major complications.
Antique (앤티크), 2008 comedy about four handsome young men, with tangled relationships, who work in a bakery and stir things up in a quiet neighborhood.
A Frozen Flower (쌍화점 Ssang-hwa-jeom), 2008 film loosely based on reign of Gongmin of Goryeo (1330-1374). The childless King has his palace guard commander, who is also his lover, sleep with the Queen, to give him an heir. Complications ensue when the soldier and the queen fall in love.
Boy Meets Boy (소년, 소년을만나다), 2008 short about Min-soo and Seok-i, two boys who encounter one another on a bus. No words are spoken, so emotions are expressed only by body language and facial expressions. See Youtube parts one and two.
Just Friends? (친구사이?), 2009 coming-out comedy about a youth on military leave, his mother and his lover.
Hello My Love (헬로우 마이 러브), a 2009 comedy; Ho-jeong attempts to win back her boyfriend of ten years who left her for another man.
QueerKorea lists more films. White Night (2012) is a recent work by Leesong Hee-il. Recent shorts about young love include: Queer Movie 20 (퀴어영화 20), Rec (알이씨), and Love, 100°C (사랑은 100℃). The Seoul LGBT Film Festival screens each June.
Kimchi, the Korean staple of seasoned fermented vegetables at the heart of Korean culture is normally eaten with every meal, believed to be very good for human health, and available in over 180 varieties. The museum offers tastes of several different types of kimchi, microscope views of the bacteria used in its production, and instructions for making kimchi yourself.
Now closed for renovations, find the new home of this small museum after March 1, 2015 with details on their website, or phone 82 2-6002-6456. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org