Reconstructed Dondeokjeon hall in Deoksu Palace to open to public

Dondeokjeon, a historic Western-style building in Seoul's Deoksu Palace used as a royal guesthouse during the Korean Empire (1897-1910), will open to the public Tuesday after being reconstructed in its original shape, the Cultural Heritage Administration said.

The reconstruction was part of the agency's broader plan to restore the original states of royal palaces, which were damaged during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The two-story building, known to have been first built during the reign of Emperor Gojong around 1901, was used mostly as a reception hall and a place to meet foreign guests. It was also a historic place where his son, Emperor Sunjong, took the throne in 1907.

According to historic records, Dondeokjeon was built in a European style on the outside with the interior reception room decorated in a luxurious style with golden curtains and wallpaper that symbolize the emperor.

However, it was reported to have been demolished in the 1930s, when the Japanese colonial government transformed the palace into a children's amusement park.

It took the government agency about six years to reconstruct the building after the excavation work began in 2017.

The CHA said it has restored the building's original location and appearance based on studies of the remains unearthed from the site, such as floor tiles and bricks, as well as photos, documents and newspaper reports. However, the CHA added an exhibition hall, a library and a hall for culture-arts events inside to make the most of the historical site located in the city center.

There also is a space for various exhibitions and international events on the first floor.

On the second floor, a permanent exhibition highlights the significance of Dondeokjeon in modern Korean history and the diplomacy of the Korean Empire.

The five-part exhibition introduces the process of the empire's establishing diplomatic relations with various countries, including the United States and Denmark, after signing an international treaty with Japan in 1876, and highlights major events in history. It also highlights the lives and activities of Korean diplomats who lived through a turbulent era. An archive of books and video materials has also been created on the same floor.

The CHA will hold a ceremony to mark the opening of Dondeokjeon on Monday afternoon.

The ceremony will be attended by about 90 people, including Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and CHA head Choi Eung-chon, as well as ambassadors from various foreign countries in the country.

"By reconstructing the cultural heritage that was the most important in Korea's modern diplomatic history, we will restore the past historical space and utilize it as a public diplomacy platform for future cultural exchanges," the CHA office in charge of managing the Deoksu Palace said in a release. (Yonhap)

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