Posted : 2013-06-11 22:06
Updated : 2013-06-11 22:06

Royal Asiatic Society offers 'Deep-Seoul Walk'

The Jongmyo Shrine in central Seoul, dedicated to the memorial services for deceased Joseon kings and queens, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
/ Korea Times file

By John Redmond

The Korea branch of the Royal Asiatic Society is giving participants the chance to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site and a traditional Korean "hanok" building area on June 22.

An excursion, titled "Jongmyo and Jongno 3-ga: A Deep-Seoul Walk" lead by tour leader Dr. Robert J. Fouser, will begin at 1 p.m. from Jongmyo Shrine, one of the first three sites in Korea added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995.

King Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), ordered the construction of the shrine in 1394 as a repository for memorial tablets for kings and queens. The shrine grew over the years, but was destroyed during the 1592-98 Japanese invasion of Korea.

The current complex of buildings dates from 1601, making it one of the oldest complexes of royal buildings in Seoul. The complex centers on the Jeongjeon Hall (National Treasure 227), which has 19 rooms, each of which houses a memorial tablet for Joseon kings and their queens.

The hall is the longest traditional building in Korea. Other buildings in Jongmyo were used for storing musical instruments used in the annual Jongmyo Jerye memorial rituals honoring kings and queens. The rituals produced a unique form of court music, the Jerye-ak, which was placed on the UNSECO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.

After visiting Jongmyo, the group will stop in to look at the Seun Sangga Shopping Center. Designed by Kim Swoo-geun (1931-86) in 1966, the buildings were the first mixed-use residential/commercial building complex in Korea. During the 1980s, the area was a famous large electronics market.

The next stop will be the hanok area in Ikseon-dong to the north of the Jongno 3-ga Station. Built by Jeong Se-gwon (1888-1965), the developer of the large hanok in Gahoi-dong 31 in Bukchon, the area is nearly completely intact example of a 1930s hanok development. The area, like many other areas with high concentrations of these buildings, is in the midst of a controversy over construction of apartments.
From Ikseon-dong, all will go through Nagwon-dong, which is famous for its "tteok" (rice cake) market, on the way to Tapgol Park, the final stop.

Tapgol Park sits on the site of Wongaksa Temple and is home to the Wongaksa Pagoda (National Treasure 2). Constructed of marble in 1467, the 10-story pagoda is 12 meters tall. The temple was closed in the early 16th century.

In 1897, Emperor Gojong asked John McLeavy Brown, the Irishman in charge of Korea's finances, to design Seoul's first public park so that people could see the pagoda. The park was the site of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence on March 1, 1919.

The excursion begins at 1 p.m. in front of the ticket windows to Jongmyo. Jongno 3-ga is the closest subway stop to Jongmyo. From Line 1, use exit 11; from Lines 3 and 5, use exit 8.

The walk will finish 5 p.m. and the cost is 20,000 won for members and 25,000W for non-members.

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