National Museum of Korea
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|National Museum of Korea|
|Revised Romanization||Gungnip Jung-ang Bangmulgwan|
|McCune–Reischauer||Kungnip Chung'ang Pangmulgwan|
|Established||1945(Reopening of the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan, 2005)|
|Location||137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea|
|Type||History and Art|
|Collection size||over 310,000 pieces
295,551 square metres (3.18 million square feet)
The National Museum of Korea is the flagship museum of Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has been committed to various studies and research activities in the fields of archaeology, history, and art, continuously developing a variety of exhibitions and education programs.
In 2012, it was reported that since its relocation to Yongsan District in 2005, the Museum has attracted an attendance of 20 million visitors. A poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors, conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, stated that visiting the Museum is one of their favorite activities in Seoul.
Emperor Sunjong established Korea's first museum, the Imperial Household Museum, in 1909. The collections of the Imperial Household Museum at Changgyeonggung and the Japanese Government General Museum administered during Japanese rule of Korea became the nucleus of the National Museum's collection, which was established when South Korea gained independence in 1945.
During the Korean War, the 20,000 of the museum's pieces were safely moved to Busan to avoid destruction. When the museum returned to Seoul after the war, it was housed at both Gyeongbokgung and Deoksugung Palace. In 1972, the museum moved again to a new building on the grounds of the Gyeonbokgung Palace. The museum was moved again in 1986 to the Jungangcheong, the former Japanese General Government Building, where it was housed (with some controversy and criticism) until the building's demolition in 1995. In December 1996, the museum was opened to the public in temporary accommodation in the renovated Social Education Hall, before officially reopening in its grand new building in Yongsan Family Park on October 28, 2005.
In October 2005, the museum opened in a new building in Yongsan Family Park in Seoul, South Korea. The museum is situated on what used to be a golf course that was part of the Yongsan Garrison, the central command of the United States Forces stationed in Korea. The US Army returned a part of the land in 1992 to the Korean government, which went on to become the Yongsan Family Park. While the plans for the museum inside the park began in 1993, its opening was delayed repeatedly by a helipad, which was eventually relocated in 2005 by agreement. The museum contains over 310,000 pieces in its collection with about 15,000 pieces on display at one time. It displays relics and artifacts throughout six permanent exhibition galleries such as Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery, Medieval and Early Modern History Gallery, Donation Gallery, Calligraphy and Painting Gallery, Asian Art Gallery, and Sculpture and Crafts Gallery. It is the sixth largest museum in the world in terms of floor space, now covering a total of 295,551 square metres (3,180,000 sq ft). In order to protect the artifacts inside the museum, the main building was built to withstand a magnitude 6.0 Richter Scale earthquake. The display cases are equipped with shock-absorbent platforms. There is also an imported natural lighting system which utilizes sunlight instead of artificial lights and a specially designed air-conditioning system. The museum is also made from fire-resistant materials. The museum also has special exhibition halls, education facilities, a children's museum, huge outdoor exhibition areas, restaurants, cafes, and shops.
The museum is divided into three floors. Symbolically, the left of the museum is supposed to represent the past, while the right side of the museum represents the future. The ground floor contains parks; gardens of indigenous plants; waterfalls and pools; and a collection of pagodas, stupas, lanterns, and steles (including National Treasure of Korea No. 2, the Great Bell of Bosingak, the exemplar of Korean bells of the Joseon period).
First floor 
On the first floor is the Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery, which contains approximately 4,500 artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Unified Silla era excavated from sites across Korea. The nine exhibition rooms in the gallery are the Palaeolithic Room, the Neolithic Room, the Bronze Age & Gojoseon Room, the Proto Three Kingdoms Room, the Goguryeo Room, the Baekje Room, the Gaya Room, and the Silla Room. Ranging from chipped stone handaxes to luxurious ancient royal ornaments, the relics displayed here show a long journey taken by the early settlers on the Peninsula towards developing their own unique culture.
Also on the first floor is the Medieval and Early Modern History Gallery, which showcases the cultural and historical heritage throughout the Unified Silla, Balhae, Goryeo, and Joseon periods. The eight rooms of the gallery include the Unified Silla Room, Balhae Room, Goryeo Room, and the Joseon Room.
Second floor 
The second floor contains the Donation Gallery and the Calligraphy and Painting Gallery, which contains 890 pieces of art that showcase the traditional and religious arts of Korea in line and color. The Calligraphy and Painting Gallery is divided into four rooms: the Painting Room, the Calligraphy Room, the Buddhist Paintings Room, and the Sarangbang(Scholar's Studio).
The Donation Gallery holds 800 pieces of art donated from the private collections of collectors. The gallery is divided into eleven rooms: the Lee Hong-kun Collection Room, the Kim Chong-hak Collection Room, the Yu Kang-yul Collection Room, the Park Young-sook Collection Room, the Choi Young-do Collection Room, the Park Byong-rae Collection Room, the Yoo Chang-jong Collection Room, the Kaneko Kazushige Collection Room, the Hachiuma Tadasu Collection Room, the Iuchi Isao Collection Room, and the Other Collection Room.
Third floor 
The third floor contains the Sculpture and Crafts Gallery, with 630 pieces that represent Korean Buddhist sculpture and craftwork. Highlights of the gallery include Goryeo Celadon wares and National Treasure of Korea No. 83, Bangasayusang (or Pensive Bodhisattva). The five rooms of the gallery are the Metal Arts Room, the Celadon Room, the Buncheong Ware Room, the White Porcelain Room, and the Buddhist Sculpture Room.
Also on the third floor is the Asian Arts Gallery, which contains 970 pieces that explore the similarities and divergences of Asian art and the confluence of Asian and Western art via the Silk Road. The five rooms are the Indian & Southeast Asian Art Room, the Central Asian Art Room, the Chinese Art Room, the Sinan Undersea Relics Room, and the Japanese Art Room.
Gold Crown, National Treasure of Korea No. 191 
This fifth-century Silla gold crown was excavated from the North tomb of Hwangnamdaechong in Gyeongju. In the North tomb, more ornaments including a silver belt ornament with an inscription of 'Buindae(the meaning of Madame's belt)' were found than in the South tomb. In this sense, this North tomb can be presumed to have belonged to a woman. A gold crown indicates the owner's political and social class.
Pensive Bodhisattva, National Treasure of Korea No. 83 
This statue, from the early seventh-century, is described as putting one leg over the other, lost in thought with fingers on its cheeks. Statues in such a pose were derived from Budda's posture of contemplating on the life of human beings. This statue is depicted with a flat crown called a 'Three Mountain Crown' or 'Lotus Crown.' Its torso is naked, but wearing a simple necklace. This statue has remarkable similarities with the wooden pensive bodhisattva at the Koryuji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, which is believed to have been founded by a Silla monk. In that sense, this statue can be presumed to have been created in Silla. However, since it has a well-balanced shape and exhibits elegant and refined craftsmanship, it is also considered as one from Baekje period.
Incense Burner, Celadon with Openwork, National Treasure of Korea No. 95 
This twelfth-century incense burner represents some of the best quality Goryeo celadon. It is composed of a cover (with a central hole for releasing incense), a burner, and a support. Above the hole for incense is a curved knob with seven treasure design incised to help spread the released incense.
Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple, National Treasure of Korea No. 86 
The "Gyeongcheonsa Ten-Story Pagoda" (경천사 십층석탑, 敬天寺十層石塔) was originally erected at the monastery Gyeongcheonsa in the fourth year (1348) of King Chungmok of Goryeo. In 1907, it was illegally smuggled to Japan by a Japanese court official, but was returned in 1918 at the behest of British and American journalists, E. Bethell and H. Hulbert, In 1960, it was restored in Gyoengbokgung Palace, but proved difficult to be conserve because of acid rain and weathering. So it was dismantled again in 1995, to be housed inside the National Museum of Korea's 'Path to History' when the museum reopened in 2005.
Album of Genre Painting by Danwon, Treasure of Korea No. 527 
The eighteenth-century painter Kim Hong-do, also known as Danwon, is known for his humorous and candid paintings of the lives of common people. This album consists of twenty-five paintings, with each focuses on the figures, without any background features. Kim's paintings appear sketchy, yet show expressive brush strokes and balanced compositions. It is presumed that Kim started to do this type of painting in his late thirties, with the album being done when he was about forty years old. 
The Oegyujanggak Uigwe 
Gyujanggak was a royal library established on the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace in the capital by order of King Jeongjo, the 22nd ruler of the Joseon, in 1776. Over time, the library was also developed into a state-sponsored research institution. In 1782, a royal library annex called Oegyujanggak was also established on Gangwha Island to preserve important documents related to the royal family more systematically and securely than could be done in the capital. Oegyujanggak housed copies of writings, calligraphy, and drawings by former kings as well as the royal genealogies, uigwe, and other such items. As such it could be called a repository of royal family culture. The uigwe is a collection of records on the preparations for and conduct of state-sponsored events and ceremonies involving key members of the Joseon royal family. The text explains every process in detail and is supported by illustrations elaborately drawn by hand. These volumes served as references for later generations when the time came to organize similar ceremonies or events, thereby minimizing trial and error. Uigwe began to be produced in the 15th century, during early Joseon, and the practice continued until the end of the kingdom in the early 20th century. They preserve core elements of the Confucian cultural world, which revered ritual and propriety. These works also reveal the governing philosophy and systems by which the state was run during Joseon. Their historical and cultural value has been recognized globally, as the “Royal Protocols of Joseon Dynasty”*1 were inscribed into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2007.  The Museum houses 297 volumes of Uigwe, or "Royal Protocols" of the Joseon Dynasty, that were looted in 1866 during the French campaign against Korea and were kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. They were repatriated from April to June 2011, in four separate installments. A special exhibition, The Return of the Oegyujanggak Uigwe from France: Records of the State Rites of the Joseon Dynasty, was held from 19 July to 18 September 2011. In June 2011, ahead of the exhibition, the Museum showcased five of the copies to the media, along with a couple of silk covers of other volumes.
Current exhibitions 
The Best under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea 
The National Museum of Korea hosts its 2012 Special Exhibition The Best under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea from October 16 to December 16. It is the second of exhibitions dedicated to Goryeo celadon wares in 20 years since the Special Exhibition in 1989, Masterpieces of Goryeo Celadons. This special exhibition is based on the research achievements on the peninsula's long ceramic tradition which have undergone a remarkable development since the 1990s. The purpose of the exhibition lies in outlining the development of Goryeo celadon wares such as its birth, and origin and application of inlay techniques. Furthermore, it is put together to take a closer look into the role, production, and circulation of the celadon, and its relationship with other metal crafts and lacquer wares during Goryeo Dynasty. The exhibition presents 350 intact celadon wares. They have been carefully selected from the collection in Korea and other countries in regards to the importance and quality. In terms of the scale, the exhibition is the largest of a kind in history. It includes 29 nation's designated cultural heritage(18 National Treasures and 11 Treasures) and two Japan's designated important cultural assets, making the exhibition an unprecedented case of bringing together top quality celadon wares. The title of the exhibition comes from the book "Soo-Joong-Guem" written by the Song Dynasty writer "Taepyung Noin", who listed the "luminous jade-green color of Goryeo celadon" as one of the "best under the heaven". This works as a proof that Goryeo celadon during the period was internationally acclaimed as it out-ranked the ones of Song Dynasty in China. Suh Geung(1091~1153) also recorded in his book "Sun Hwa Bong Sa Goryeo Dogyung" that "Goryeo people refer to the bluish color of the celadon by luminous and mysterious" after his visit to Goryeo as an envoy of Song. This also demonstrates the high quality and renowned beauty of Goryeo celadon wares of the time. The exhibition was not organized in a conventional style which places objects in simple chronological order, but in four parts that could show Goryeo celadon wares in an effective and comprehensive manner: history, uses, inlaid technique, and highlights. This was in consideration of the visitors so that they can selectively view one part at a time and appreciate each from different angles. Also, the exhibition was designed in careful consideration to the unique characteristics of the celadon and presented them in a three-dimensional look instead of a simple line-up. 
The Great Thinker Dasan Jeong Yak-yong 
The National Museum of Korea is holding a special exhibition commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Jeong Yak-yong. The event displays a total of 142 relics, including Dasansagyeongcheop (designated as Treasure No. 1683). The event will provide visitors with another opportunity to get a glimpse into the academic achievements, philosophy, and personality of the great thinker, who thought about what he should do for the country and people even while he was going through a time of personal difficulties. The exhibition is divided into several sections according to themes, (i.e. his life, his academic achievements, and the books he published.) The exhibition will be a nice opportunity to see how Jeong Yak-yong lived and what kind of person he was as an innovative scholar who proposed ways of reforming existing systems and improving people’s lives by writing a large number of books based on his in-depth study of Confucianism and what the society of the Joseon Period was like. All of which he did despite the ordeal he experienced in his 18 year exile. 
General information 
- Address: 137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 140-026, Korea
- Admission charge: Free to Permanent Exhibition & Children’s Museum, except for special exhibitions
See also 
- "Exhibition and museum attendance figures 2011". London: The Art Newspaper. April 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
- "Seoul's best museums" CNN Go. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-03
- "National Museum of Korea Welcomes 20-Millionth Visitor since Its Relocation to Yongsan".
- "Mt. Nam Tops List of Foreign Tourists' Favorites". Chosun Ilbo. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- [100 Highlights of National Museum of Korea, book]
- Lee, Claire "Ancient Korean royal books welcomed back home" Korea Herald. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-23
- "The Return of the Oegyujanggak Uigwe from France: Records of the State Rites of the Joseon Dynasty". Special Exhibitions. National Museum of Korea. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- Lee, Claire (4 July 2011). "Museum shows royal books returned from France". Korea Herald. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation".
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