On Thursday, July 17, after the Philharmonia’s first rehearsal in Seoul — and lunch — the orchestra members were offered two choices of excursions into the history of Korea. One was a visit to Gyeongbokgung, the main place of the Joseon Dynasty. Thought the weather was very hot and humid, the visit into Korea’s colorful history was worth the effort.
Built in 1395 by King Taejo, Gyeongbokgung was the center of the royal capital of Seoul, then known as Hanyang. It was destroyed by fire by the Japanese invasion of 1592 and reconstructed in 1868 during King Gojong’s reign, by order of the Prince Regent. The palace he created was a magnificent labyrinthine complex of 330 buildings. Most of the buildings were dismantled during the Japanese occupation, but an effort to restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990.