On a fine day in Seoul, I found myself walking around Gyeongbokgung. I didn’t walk into Gyeongbokgung like I did on my first day in Seoul, but rather walked in the admission-free areas around it which I hadn’t completely explored before.
There are various historical relics artfully set up in the free area around Gyeongbokgung.
Above is a very old stone pagoda, probably dating back to the United Silla era.
Of course, the pagoda hasn’t been sitting there all of this time – Buddhism was banned in Seoul during the Joseon dynasty – so it was probably moved there so lots of people could appreciate it.
In the background of the picture above you can see Bukaksan. Between Gyeongbokgung and Bukaksan is Cheongwadae – known as the ‘Blue House’ – which is the official residence and office of the president of South Korea. Just as US Citizens refer to the US presidential as the ‘White House’, South Koreans refer to their president as the ‘Blue House’.
Since this is so close to the home and office of the South Korean president – and North Korean agents have attempted an assassination here – this area is teeming with police officers, who might ask you what you are doing or where you are going. That said, they are used to tourists, so as long as you aren’t doing anything suspicious or forbidden, they’ll let you do your tourist thing.
I am glad I got here right when the ginkgo trees were in their bright yellow colors.
I mentioned that there was an assassination attempt, right? That happened in 1968. A team of North Koreans sneaked into Bukaksan, and then descended in an attempt to kill then-president (as in, military dictator) Park Chung-hee (his daughter is the current president of South Korea).
I passed by a monument to some South Korean police officers who died during the assassination attempt, right at the spot where they were fatally injured.
I had hoped to hike up Bukaksan itself that day but … heh … it was a Monday, and Bukaksan is closed to visitors on Mondays. I only got as far as Sukjeongmun, one of the old gates from the Joseon-era Seoul City Wall.
No worries, I came back on another day.
Strolling back towards Gyeongbokgung, the grounds also feature some traditional Korean structures, such as this authentic shrine which was moved to the grounds for display and preservation.
All in all, it’s a pleasant area to walk around (aside from all of the police officers), with trees, mountains, and things of historical interest.