Palaces stay open late for G-20 visitors

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Palaces stay open late for G-20 visitors

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Viewers admire a lantern created for the G-20 Summit at the Seoul Lantern Festival on the Cheonggye Steam in central Seoul. [YONHAP]

When dignitaries from the Group of 20 nations visit Seoul later this week, they will be treated to an array of Korea’s most spectacular cultural treasures. They are scheduled to visit museums and palaces and see performances of traditional Korean music and dance.

To accommodate the flood of visitors expected over the next few days, two of Seoul’s major palaces are extending their visiting hours and organizing special performances highlighting traditional Korean culture.

Gyeongbok Palace will be open to the public until 10 p.m. through Friday. It is the first time in 615 years that the general public will be allowed in after sunset. Many of the buildings that will be open are as national treasures, including Geunjeongjeon Hall, the Imperial Throne Hall (National Treasure No. 223), Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (National Treasure No. 224) and Gwanghwamun, the main gate to the palace that reopened on Aug. 15 after a four-year restoration process. The palace opens at 9 a.m.

To help visitors navigate the dark, the Cultural Heritage Administration will provide additional lighting along the main tour route from Gwanghwamun to Geunjeongjeon Hall and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. An additional 40 guards will provide security.

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Gyeonghoeru Pavilion will be open at night through Friday.

Meanwhile, the Cultural Heritage Foundation is holding a special performance by people designated as intangible cultural heritage in Deoksu Palace. The event starts at 7 p.m. and continues until Friday. Participating performers include pansori (narrative singing) artist Seong Chang-soon, gayageum (12-string zither) player Kang Jung-sook, daegeum (bamboo flute) player Lee Saeng-gang and Gyeonggi minyo (folksong) singer Lee Chun-hee. Before each performance, the artists will briefly discuss their life and work. The performers will distribute a limited of their CDs to the audience.

The performance venue is Junghwajeon, the historic hall where Gojong, the 26th king of the Joseon Dynasty and the first emperor of the Korean Empire, greeted foreign envoys.

Deoksu Palace will be open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. until Friday. Entry to the palace closes after 9 p.m.

But not all the palaces will be open to the public this week. Changdeok Palace and Changgyeong Palace will be closed temporarily on Thursday and Friday for visits by spouses of foreign dignitaries. On Friday morning, they will tour the landscaped pond and pavilions of Changdeok Palace’s Secret Garden, called as such because it was originally created as a private space for the royal family.

Later that day, the dignitaries’ spouses will also tour the Korean Furniture Museum in Seongbuk in northeastern Seoul.

“The print, color and shape of Korean traditional furniture design will be displayed so that international visitors have the chance to fully appreciate the lifestyle of early Koreans,” said Lee Si-hyung, director of the planning committee for the G-20 Summit. “The Korean Furniture Museum has not officially opened its exhibition to the public, but we have an agreement with the museum’s director for the G-20 Summit.”

On Thursday, visiting presidents and political leaders will be given a welcoming reception at the National Museum of Korea in central Seoul, after which the leaders’ spouses will move to Itaewon’s Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, for dinner. After dinner, they will be given a tour of the museum by former Leeum director Hong Ra-hee.

“The Leeum blends Korean traditions and current trends in Korean culture, making it an ideal venue for this event,” said Lee Si-hyung.

Meanwhile, through Sunday, about 10,000 lanterns from 20 countries will brighten Cheonggye Stream in central Seoul from 5 to 11 p.m. during the Seoul Lantern Festival, an annual event that started last year.

Admission (day or night) is 3,000 won ($2.70) for Gyeongbok Palace and 1,000 won for Deoksu Palace. The performances at Deoksu Palace are at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and admission is free.

To go to Gyeongbok Palace, go to Gyeongbokgung Station, line No. 3, exit 5. For Deoksu Palace, go to City Hall Station, line No. 2, exit 2 or 12.

For details on Gyeongbok Palace, go to www.royalpalace.go.kr. For Deoksu Palace, go to www.deoksugung.go.kr.


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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