2 Museums to Visit in Seoul

Park, Jeonghun

Museums are places where there are traces of the past. Some might even consider it boring, because of there is nothing much to do inside. However, visiting museums in a new country is crucial to understanding the culture of that nation. Moreover, since the Korean atmosphere is not the cleanest, museums are the best place to visit rather than having outdoor activities. Seoul has numerous museums; small and large, that even offers free admissions to foreigners as well. The ones I am going to introduce are the National Museum of Korea and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

First, National Museum of Korea is the place, where visitors can see numerous artifacts dating from paleontological period to Joseon dynasty. It is in Ichon Station which is accessible by line number 4 or Gyeongui-jungang line. In the past there was no direct exit that lead to the museum, so that people had to cross streets multiple times to get there. However, nowadays there is an exit that connects the museum area from the station, so you do not have to cross roads. Finding the museum is easy because the biggest building in the area is the museum itself. The museum is quite large, compared to other museums in Korea. In detail, the area that hosts the museum is about 295550 square meters and the building itself is 49469 square meters. The museum is open usually 10:00 to 18:00, because their opening hours vary, you should check their website www.museum.go.kr prior to your visit. The museum holds various types of exhibits, and there are 2 types of displays held here. The first is special exhibition, which requires admission fees mostly, and the second is permanent exhibition which does not require admission fees. Special exhibitions are mostly exhibitions from foreign museums where the museums exchange their artifacts to display them. From my personal experiences, most of them lack the depth because, any museum in the world would not let their precious findings leave the country because there is a risk of being damaged during transport. As a result, most of them are mainly artifacts that lack significant value compared to ones in their homeland. For example, I went to their display on ancient kingdoms in the Middle East. The contents were mundane, and the artifacts looked the same from my perspective. I regret paying the admission to that exhibit particularly. However, there are some notable exhibitions as well. For example, there was an exhibition on Pompeii where the museum actually brought fossilized bodies from the city and displayed them. The second is permanent displays which are held permanently and free to public. Permanent exhibitions are separated to 7 parts and they start from prehistoric era to early modern history of Korea which is near the end of Joseon dynasty. Almost all artifacts in the museum are labeled both in Korean and English, accordingly foreigners would not have problem understanding them.

박정훈 6-1

Figure 1: The museum at night

The next museum is National Museum of Korean Contemporary History. It is in Gwanghwamun area, right next to the US embassy. The museum is open from 10:00 to 18:00, except for national holidays like new year and thanksgiving. The admission is also free. The museum has 8 floors which are connected by escalators. The 8th floor has a lounge where you can see Gwanghwamun and the palace quarters and it is one of the best spots to take a picture of the palace. The major difference between the previous museum is the span of history being displayed. The National Museum of Korea is focused on ancient history and old artifacts; however, the Museum of Korean Contemporary History is more focused on Republic of Korea itself; starting from 1945 to present. The museum shows copies of multiple documents previously classified as confidential such as treaties between Korea and Japan. Even though, they are not genuine, because the originals need to be stored safely, you can get a glimpse at Korean history by going through them. Moreover, the museum sheds light on recent years such as 1980’s when people protested for freedom, and the government tried to suppress them using police brutality. The propaganda and newspaper advertisements that government used are on display as well. As you walk down the hallway, you could experience the turmoil in 1980’s when people fought for freedom in the nation. Like the National Museum of Korea, all artifacts are labeled both in Korean and English, making it easier for foreigners to understand them. For more information, visit http://www.much.go.kr.

박정훈 6-2Figure 2: The palace from 8th floor


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