National Museum of Korea
135 Seobinggo-no, Yongsan-gu
HOURS: Tues., Thurs., and Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.,
Wed. and Sat. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
SUBWAY: Ichon (Line 4, Jungang Line)
War and development forced the collection of Korea’s national museum into a series of temporary homes in recent decades, including, controversially, the former headquarters of the Japanese colonial authorities, but in 2005 it was relocated permanently to its expansive new digs in Yongsan Family Park.
Set on an over-300,000-square-meter estate, the facility is the largest museum in Asia in terms of floor space, and among the biggest six in the world. The building, which consists of two wings connected by an open-air plaza, is impressive in its own right, designed to consume a minimum of energy and allow natural light to illuminate many of the exhibits.
And then there’s the collection itself—well over 200,000 pieces from the Paleolithic to the contemporary era, with around 13,000 on display at any one time in dozens of galleries and an outdoor exhibition area.
It’s virtually impossible to see all the museum has to offer on a single visit, so don’t be ashamed to grab one of the English-language guidebooks on offer and head straight for the highlights, which include the Bangasayusang, a 7th-century bronze carving of a Buddha in a rare contemplative pose; luminous Goryo-era celadon; a delicate golden crown of the 5th-century Silla kingdom; and a magnificent 10-story pagoda from a 13th-century Buddhist monastery.
Visitors must get tickets for the museum near the entrance, but these are entirely free except for special exhibitions.
Audio guides are available, and English-, Chinese-, and Japanese-language group tours are run throughout each day.
Adding to the argument for spending an entire day here, the museum is equipped with a substantial range of facilities, including a separate children’s museum, shops, two cafeterias, three restaurants, cafés, a tea house, and even a pharmacy and bank. A warning: It does tend to get crowded with large groups of students on field trips—these can usually be avoided by arriving early or later in the day.
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition