Unhyeongung Palace was formerly a private residence of Prince Regent Heungseon (1820-1898), the father of Emperor Gojong (the 26th king of the Joseon Dynasty). The young Gojong lived here before he assumed the throne. The royal wedding ceremony of Emperor Gojong and Empress Myeongseong also took place here. During the reign of Emperor Gojong, Unhyeongung was as grand as any other palace in Seoul, but today's complex is much smaller than its original size. Over time, many of the palace buildings have been heavily damaged and destroyed during various conflicts. A reenactment of Emperor Gojong and Empress Myeongseong’s royal wedding ceremony is held on the grounds of the palace every year. Events are also held regularly highlighting traditional Korean royal culture. Unhyeongung Palace is a great sight to add to a day itinerary as the popular Insadong Street and Bukchon Hanok Village are located nearby.
Reenactment of the royal wedding ceremony
These days, Unhyeongung Palace has the very special role of introducing traditional Korean royal culture to both native Koreans as well as visitors from all over the world. The reenactment of the royal wedding ceremony is the most well-known of the palace's events. The event is divided into the pre-ceremony and the main ceremony. The pre-ceremony contains a royal carriage parade as well as the performance of a royal court dance and Chitadae (Korean orchestra). The main ceremony consists of the ceremony where Lady Min (later to be Empress Myeongseong) is crowned queen and the ceremony where the king welcomes the queen. The ceremony of the royal carriage parade is particularly spectacular and majestic.
Residence for the servants and guards – Sujiksa
▶ Interior of Sujiksa
Sujiksa is a small row of rooms to the right off the entrance. This area housed the servants and guards. After Emperor Gojong was crowned, Prince Regent Heungseon was given more power, and the number of his guards was also increased. These days, it displays objects from that period including furniture, a brazier and a kerosene lamp. Outside of Sujiksa, mannequins dressed in guard uniforms are also displayed.
Office of Prince Regent Heungseon, Noandang
Noandang is a typical tile-roofed Korean house. The house is prized for its delicate and elegant corners of eaves, and while it is not large, it is simple. Prince Regent Heungseon carried out all his business from Noandang. Prince Regent named the house himself, and its signboard was written by Kim Jeong-hee (a Joseon era famous calligrapher). Prince Regent Heungseon died here.
Site of the wedding of Emperor Gojong and Empress Myeongseong – Norakdang (Hall)
Norakdang is the largest building within the palace and the place where the wedding of Emperor Gojong and Empress Myeongseong was held. The building reflects its previous greatness as a royal palace. The hall held many important events for the royal family.
Women's quarter – Irodang
Irodang (Women’s quarter) is located at the north end of the palace. It was built to use as women's quarters to replace Noandang. This building is square-shaped, and it was designed this way to help protect the women inside from intruders. Today, it has become an exhibition hall housing a collection of interesting artifacts and furniture discovered during the reconstruction and restoration of Unhyeongung.
Norakdang and its yard
Women's quarter of Unhyeongung and its well
▶ Unhyeongung Yanggwan
Yanggwan (Western house) was originally built for Yi Junyong, a grandson of Heungseon. It is a two-story building built in the French Renaissance style, using stone and bricks. The building's most notable feature is that the sixteen patterns of the ceiling decoration are all different from each other.
Royal cultural experiences
At Unhyeongung Palace, visitors can experience traditional Korean royal culture and take part in various activities. The traditional Korean folk games are always very popular during the national holiday seasons. As well as this, demonstrations of the royal tea drinking ceremony and the traditional weapon exhibitions are held. The palace also offers various royal cultural exhibitions and educational programs.
Signboard of Noandang
Traditional etiquette program
View of Norakdang