This museum let me know that I don’t care too much for the dynasty era of Korean history. I tried reading the information but I would get bored less than halfway though reading the sign. That being said, there were some beautiful things throughout the museum.
On the bottom floor there are two exhibition halls, among other things (restaurant, information, gift shop, etc) and the rest of the museum is on the 2nd floor (realistically its the 3rd floor but visitors cannot go anywhere on the 2nd floor).
I first went to the right and there were exhibitions on Jeongdong: a Strange Coexistence and the Universal Exposition of Paris 1900: the Daehan Empire Met the World. The Paris one confused me at first because the sub-heading was not there so I expected some French art…not so much though, it was Korean stuff that was sent to Paris to show the world what Korea was like before 1900.
Below are pictures from Jeongdong: a Strange Coexistence was about the changing times from traditional to Western, which is exemplified in the second picture, of the modern man and the bike. The first picture is of Seoul at the time of 1899.
In the Universal Exposition of Paris 1900: the Daehan Empire Met the World there were many things from the time before 1900 (as the exopsition was in 1900) including the walls that Koreans would put up between rooms and instruments. There were also the chairs that kings were carried on, fans, chairs, pots and drums.
On the floor with the exhibitions, it starts in Zone 1 of Seoul of the Joseon Dynasty, then Zone 2 of The Capital of the Daehan Empire, Zone 3 of Seoul under Japanese Control, and ends with Zone 4 of Development of Seoul. However, at the top of the stairs there is the Seoul Panoramic Theater, which has a mini-model of Seoul in it. It’s actually called ‘SEOUL: Now and in the Making’ which I thought was a great title for a city display. Very difficult to get pictures of without a tripod because of how bright it is. As I was looking a kid walked in and just went ‘WOAH’ and went all fours and stared down at what he had been standing on as his father and myself laughed.
Zone 2 is the smallest of the zones and displays the start of modernization/Westernization. One thing that was prevalent was the numbers of foreigners, specifically Japanese, was increasing–as you can see in the first picture–which lead to Zone 3 quite well. On the floor in one of the three rooms was a map of the Seoul that was before occupation. The final room had a photo show going on with descriptions of the photos. The ones I thought were most interesting were:
- 1907: Report on the national debt redemption movement, the Daehan Maeil Sinmun (Newspaper) and the Hwangseong Sinmun (Newspaper)
- 1907: Japanese army soldiers march in downtown Seoul when Emperor Gojong was forced to abdicate
- 1907: forced abdication of Emperor Gojong and enthronement of Emperor Sunjong
- 1907: Parade of Emperor Sunjong after ascending the throne
- 1097: Uprising of loyal army soldiers
- executing loyal army soldiers
- 1910: Japanese annexation of Korea
Zone 3 had more models, but this time displaying the way things were changing in specific areas, such as Cafes, Barber shops and Billiard Halls. There was also a lot of writing about the changes in culture and how things were under Japanese occupation. Department stores were created, people started to read more as it was a good way to find out about rebellion and young people who dressed in modern styles were basically saying ‘everything you wear is terrible, look at all the money I have, I am better than you because I dress like a Westerner’. At this time World War 2 was going on and Korea had to fly the Japanese flag.
Zone 4 starts with a short sum up of Liberation, US Occupation, and the War. There is a whole museum about the Korean War, so I think they skip over it here because there is no point in going over all the information twice. After that there is information about Seoul growing and expanding in number of people but not size, which lead to overcrowding, bad sewage, shanty towns (and fires in them) and food shortages. This lead into the dictatorship which lead to a lot of construction and helped Seoul become a booming city and Korea a booming country. After that it seemed like the museum skipped a bit, showed a 1970s dress and went to the Olympics, which was a massive deal for Korea to hold, less than 50 years after the Korean War.