Deoksugung Palace is unique among Korean palaces in having a modern seal engraving and a western style garden and fountain. Medieval and modern style architecture exists together in harmony in Deoksugung Palace. The Changing of the Royal Guard can be seen in front of Daehanmun (Gate) and is a very popular event for many visitors. During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guard was responsible for opening and closing the palace gate as well as patrolling around the gate area. Outside the palace is a picturesque road flanked by a stone wall which is much loved by visitors.
Originally, Deoksugung Palace was not a palace. The Imjin War (the Japanese invasions in 1592) left all the palaces in Korea severely damaged. When King Seonjo (the fourteenth king of the Joseon Dynasty) returned to Seoul from his evacuation, the primary palace Gyeongbokgung Palace had been burnt to the ground and other palaces were also heavily damaged. A temporary palace was chosen from among the houses of the royal family. This is the origin of Deoksugung Palace. King Gwanghaegun (the fifteenth king of the Joseon Dynasty) named the palace Gyeongungung, formalizing it as a royal palace. Since then it has been used as an auxiliary palace by many Joseon kings. In 1897, Emperor Gojong (the twenty-sixth king of the Joseon Dynasty) stayed here and expanded it. The modern buildings such as Seokjojeon (Hall) were constructed during this period. In 1907, the palace was renamed Deoksugung.
The changing of the royal guard
The changing of the royal guard and the patrol ritual can be seen in front of Daehanmun. During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guard was responsible for opening and closing the palace gate as well as patrolling around the gate area. The procedure of the ceremony and the costume of the guards were reproduced with the help of historical research. Today the event has become the pride of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and is one of the main tourist attractions. The changing of the royal guard takes around 20 minutes. After the ceremony, visitors can take pictures with the royal guards and have the chance to try on the guard's uniform, as well as to try on other traditional Korean dress.
The road from the main gate of Deoksugung Palace leading to Jeongdong-gil (Road) is prized for its picturesque beauty. The palace wall and the road together create a beautiful atmosphere. An old saying is that you will break up with your partner if you walk along this road together. This saying comes from the presence of a divorce court nearby.