Former royal lounge now a venue for the public

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Former royal lounge now a venue for the public

At Deoksu Palace in central Seoul, King Gojong (1852-1919), the last ruler of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), used to sip coffee, hold banquets and enjoy music in a unique pavilion called Jeonggwanheon.

And now modern Seoulites can do the same - or something similar.

The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) said last week that every Wednesday starting this week, there will be a lecture by notable figures in the cultural sector at the pavilion. Situated on the palace grounds, Jeonggwanheon is an open-air structure where one can sit and take in the pleasant atmosphere.

On Wednesday, Jo Hun-hyeon, a baduk legend, will be talking about what the game of go means to him. Jo has been playing the game professionally for around 60 years, and he has the most wins in competition under his belt.

On Sept. 16, Korean-Japanese pianist, composer and producer Yang Bang-ean will talk about his life and passion. His talk will focus on how crossing between different genres of music, as well as different cultures, motivates and inspires him.

On Sept. 23, star novelist Park Bum-shim will give a lecture. Known for his rich poetic descriptions, Park’s works have many fans. His works also often deal with the coldness of contemporary society and reflect on human nature.

The CHA and Starbucks Korea have been holding the program, “At Jeonggwanheon, With a Cultural Figure,” every spring and fall since 2009.

The program is part of the government’s recent attempts to open up the palace for more diverse cultural experiences. “At Jeonggwanheon, With a Cultural Figure” has been gaining traction over the years and has made the palace a go-to place for trend-sensitive Koreans.

Before the lecture program began, most people did not know what the odd-looking structure was. But today, most people at least associate the pavilion with coffee.

Built around 1900, Jeonggwanheon is an example of fusion-style architecture within the Deoksu Palace complex.

It was designed by Russian-born Swiss architect Afanasij Seredin-Sabatin, who constructed several other buildings in Korea in the late 19th century.

Although the structure has distinctly Western features such as columns, it also features decorative patterns of deer and bats - both considered auspicious creatures in Korea.


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