South Korea is a very old country. Their history goes back thousands of years and they are very proud of their heritage. Seoul, while it is a completely modern and updated city, has existed as the capital of Korea for quite a long time as it was one of the first cities to be established and many royal families lived in the area spanning hundreds of years. This allowed for the construction of many palaces and temples throughout the Seoul vicinity.
South Korean architecture is quite beautiful and unique; they generally focused on multiple open air pagodas on palace grounds as well as smaller buildings for sleeping and leisure. Most of the palaces and temples are done in the traditional Korean colors which include red, blue, green, yellow, and white. They also include imagery such as symbolic animals, moons, suns, and mountains that are intertwined within the architecture.
I visited one of the largest palaces that exists in South Korea today, Gyeongbokgung Palace is centered in the heart of Seoul, aligned with the mountain range in the background. The grounds of the palace are sprawling with a moat, throne room, sleeping quarters, temples, a library, and a massive garden that wraps around the perimeter. In the summer, there are people that wear traditional dress called Hanbok and play traditional music on South Asian instruments. What makes it better is there are signs at every building to give an explanation of when it was built and what it was used for.
But the palaces and temples (as well as most historical sites and artifacts) come with a sad history; before the Korean War and Japanese Occupation, most of the original buildings stood exactly as they had been built, when the Japanese came in to annex Korea, they destroyed everything that had to do with Korean history in the hopes that they could make the country Japanese. After the Japanese lost control of Korea, all of the buildings had to be restored, this took place mostly from the 1970s-90s, because of this, almost all of the historical sites in South Korea are reconstructed representations of what they were previously. Even reconstructed, they are important to Korean history as a whole and are worth being visited as they are extremely beautiful.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.