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Places in South Korea: The National Museum of Korea

Basic Information

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Narrative

Seoul is filled with many great museums and historical sites.  One of the best museums to check out in this amazing city is the National Museum of Korea located in the Yongsan district of Seoul:

This is one of the newest and largest museums in all of South Korea.  The National Museum of Korea opened on October 28, 2005 and is considered the flag ship history museum for the country.  The museums features various displays about archaeology, history, and art from the Korean peninsula.  The museum also has various other rotating displays from around the world as well.  Since opening in 2005 the museum has averaged 3 million visitors every year.  Something else the museum serves as is a green space within the densely populated city.  Around the museum is a park with a small pond for visitors to enjoy.

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

From the museum there is also a nice view looking back towards Namsan mountain where Seoul Tower can be seen and in the foreground is the major US military installation in Seoul, Yongsan Garrison:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Once inside the museum it becomes quite clear how huge this building is:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

The best thing about visiting the National Museum of Korea is that admission is free to the general exhibits.  Special rotating exhibits held in the museum though require the purchase of a ticket.  However, the general exhibit area is absolutely huge and can take a whole day to explore for those truly interested in Korean history.  The museum has three floors of exhibits, with the best ones about Korea’s history on the first floor.  The recommended path through the museum begins by showing galleries of stone tools and weapons used by ancient Koreans during the Neolithic age (4,500-2,000 B.C.):

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Ancient Koreans during this time period even used stone to make fish hooks with:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Their skill with stone eventually evolved to where they were able to make stone swords and daggers:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

According to the display it is believed that only wealthy people could afford the stone daggers and they were likely used for ceremonial purposes.  After the stone age era ancient Koreans eventually developed the technology to craft bronze tools and weapons:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

The peak of the Bronze Age for Korea was around 1,000 to 800 B.C. when the metallurgy technology was transferred to the peninsula from China.  During this time rock molds were used to forge tools and weapons:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

The Bronze Age also allowed for the making of elaborate pieces of art that were sturdy enough to stand the test of time:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

After the bronze age the early Koreans entered the Iron Age around 300 B.C. to 100 AD where important tools such as horseshoes were developed:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

 

Early Koreans were also very skilled with using clay to make jars.  The below clay jars were built sometime around 400-500 AD and were used to place bodies in for burial under earthen tombs:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

As Korean culture developed their kings had their artisans build elaborate crowns and jewelry to demonstrate their wealth and power:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Besides making personal jewelry the Korean royalty also used their artisans to create elaborate ornaments for their palaces such as these bronze dragon heads:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Over the centuries as contact with the West increased art from outside of Korea began to appear:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Without a doubt the biggest outside influence on the Korean peninsula has been the introduction of Buddhism from China in 372 AD.  Various temples commissioned artisans to craft elaborate Buddha statues as the religion took hold in Korea:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Today all across Korea elaborate Buddha statues hundreds of years old can be found in the mountain temples:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

In 1348 a Buddhist temple commissioned the building of this incredibly elaborate 10-story stone pagoda which may be my favorite artifact in the entire museum:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

On the other two-floors of the museum that have various other displays from cultures in the region.  For example on second floor there is a pretty good exhibit of feudal Japanese items such as this samurai armor:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Here is a samurai katana sword:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Another fascinating exhibit is of items that were discovered by a Korean fisherman in 1975 off the coast of Sinan island:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

From 1976 to 1984 a series of underwater expeditions uncovered 24,000 items from a sunken Chinese merchant ship.  Most of the items were of elaborate celadon:

Picture from the National Museum of Korea

Conclusion

There is much more to see in the National Museum of Korea.  If someone was to see every exhibit and read all the displays it would easily take a day to get through this entire museum.  For those browsing through the museum and only reading the displays that catch their interest then a half a day is enough to explore this museum.  My recommended itinerary would be to explore this museum in the morning and then go over to the nearby War Memorial of Korea and spend the afternoon exploring that museum.  Exploring these two museums during a visit to Seoul really gives someone a greater appreciation of the history and culture of Korea.

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