[FOUNTAIN]A palace’s beauty restoredAmong the kings of the Joseon Dynasty, seven had coronation ceremonies at Gyeongbok Palace’s Geunjeongjeon. The palace was the main royal residence of the dynasty, and Geunjeongjeon was the main hall, or jeongjeon, of the palace. It was the building where official state ceremonies took place, officials assembled, and foreign dignitaries were granted audiences with the king.
In the dynasty’s major palaces, many buildings had “jeong” in their names. Examples include Injeong Hall of Changdeok Palace, Myeongjeong Hall of Changgyeong Palace, and Sungjeong Hall of Gyeonghui Palace. Why did they put the Chinese character referring to “politics” in the names?
According to Jeong Do-jeon, who named Gyeongbok Palace and Geunjeong Hall, the core of state administration lay in seeking and employing wise men. The prominent strategists of the time thought politics was the basis of state affairs, and the core of politics was personnel management.
Many historical events occurred at Geunjeong Hall. King Sejong proclaimed the creation of hangeul, Korea’s writing system, there. The majesty of Geunjeong Hall was revealed in 1395, four years into founding King Taejo’s reign. This architectural beauty was destroyed by fire during Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s invasion of Korea in 1579, and was restored by Prince Regent Daewon in 1867, the fourth year of King Gojong’s reign.
As the public began to recognize the need to restore the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty, the latest restoration project began in January 2001. In the process of disassembling the structure, a roll of silk was discovered. It contained a prayer celebrating the 1867 reconstruction, and gave the names and positions of the people who were involved in the project. It also recorded the background of why the palace was being restored in beautiful calligraphy.
Geunjeong Hall returned to us with its original beauty on Friday. In celebration of the restoration, court music and dances from 136 years ago were performed.
While this historic event could invigorate the national spirit and sustain the country’s heritage, the president did not attend the ceremony. The media were not enthralled by the event either. The coronation of King Gojong was enacted amid the popping flashlights of visitors’ cameras, but the event somehow seemed lonely.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.