Gyeongbokgung also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace is a royal palace located in northern Seoul, South Korea. First constructed in 1395, later burned and abandoned for almost three centuries, and then reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name means "Palace" [Gung] "Greatly Blessed by Heaven" [Gyeongbok]. In the early 20th century, much of the palace was destroyed by Imperial Japan. Since then, the walled palace complex has been gradually restored back to its original form. As of 2009, roughly 40% of the original number of palace buildings still stand or have been reconstructed.
Gyeongbokgung was built three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded and it served as its main palace. With Mount Bugaksan as a backdrop and the Street of Six Ministries (today’s Sejongno) outside Gwanghwamun Gate, the main entrance to the palace, Gyeongbokgung was situated in the heart of the Korean capital city. It was steadily expanded before being reduced to ashes during the Japanese invasion of 1592. For the next 273 years the palace grounds were left derelict until being rebuilt in 1867 under the leadership of Prince Regent Heungseon Daewongun. The restoration was completed on a grand scale, with 330 buildings crowded together in a labyrinthine configuration. Within the palace walls were the Outer Court (oejeon), offices for the king and state officials, and the Inner Court (naejeon), which included living quarters for the royal family as well as gardens for leisure. Within its extensive precincts were other palaces, large and small, including Junggung (the Queen`s residence) and Donggung (the Crown prince’s residence).
Owing to its status as the symbol of national sovereignty, Gyeongbokgung was demolished during the Japanese occupation of the early 20th century. In 1911, ownership of land at the palace was transferred to the Japanese Governor-General. In 1915, on the pretext of holding an exhibition, more than 90% of the buildings were torn down. Following the exhibition the Japanese leveled whatever still remained and built their colonial headquarters, the Government-General Building (1916–26), on the site.
Restoration efforts have been ongoing since 1990. The Government-General Building was removed in 1996 and Heungnyemun Gate (2001) and Gwanghwamun Gate (2006-2010) were reconstructed in their original locations and forms. Reconstructions of the Inner Court and Crown Prince’s residence have also been completed.
In 2011 in a survey conducted, by Seoul Development Institute, which included 800 residents and 103 urban planners and architects. It listed 39 percent of residents, voted that the palace as the most scenic location in Seoul, following Mount Namsan and Han River in the top spots.
Today, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is open to the public and houses the National Folk Museum Of Korea, the National Palace Museum Of Korea, and traditional Korean gardens.
Gyeongbokgung entry is located 22 Sajik-no, Jongno-gu. The nearest subway station is
Gyeongbokgung Station (Station #327 on Line 3).
There has been off and on talk to extending the Sin Bundang Line near the palace including during a March 2012 campaign promise by Hong Sa-duk to expand the line near Gyeongbok Palace.
In a poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors, conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, stated that watching the changing of the guards at the main gate Gwanghwamun as their third favorite activity in Seoul. The royal changing of the guard ceremony is held in front of the main gate every hour from 10:00 to 15:00.