Seoul Museum of History

Category : Museums/Galleries
Mar 29, 2016



  Korea is a new rising nation but it might be surprising to know its roughly half a million years of history. The current capital of Korea, Seoul's history can be traced back as far as 18 BC, and it has been the capital of numerous kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula since it was established.


  Seoul was the capital of the Joseon Dynasty, and Seoul Museum of History depicts the evolution from its prehistoric period to the city it is today capturing the traditional culture of Seoul. Vestiges from the prehistoric era to modern Seoul are on display. The museum was renovated with modern updates in May 2002, 17 years after opening. The main exhibit halls are on the 3rd floor. Many of the Joseon Dynasty relics were donated during the Relic Donation Campaign. Also, the landscape of Seoul is recreated when it was the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Another exhibit showcases the daily life of the Seoulites, while another presents items through an online cyber museum. The 1st floor has many convenient facilities such as a coat check and the Kids Corner playroom.

  The Special Exhibition Hall, the Exhibition Hall for Donated Relics, and Museum Shop where cultural products are produced and sold, are also on the 1st floor.

If you enjoy dainty foods and tea, visit the Gyeonghuigung Café. It is a cozy spot which stays open after museum hours.




Permanet Exhibition

The Joseon Capital
Establishment of the King’s Residence

Having seen the lay of the land, this site is suitable for the royal capital. It is accessible to the sea and is centrally located in the kingdom, bringing convenience to people’s lives.” In 1394, King Taejo uttered these words upon viewing Hanyang. Soon after, the Main Palace compound, Altars to the Gods of Soil and Grain, and Royal Ancestral Shrine were built, thereby finalizing the establishment of the new royal house and garnering the loyalty of the people. In addition, products from around the entire kingdom were brought to Hanyang, the new Joseon capital.



1863 ~ 1910
Taking Tradition Forward with Aspirations for an Imperial Capital

The winds of change began to sweep across the Joseon capital from the middle of the 19th century. The reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which had lay in ruins for more than two and a half centuries, started in 1865 as part of efforts to make over the city where the king resided.
French warships appeared on the Hangang River shortly thereafter as imperialist powers began to encroach on the capital. From this time on, new ideas and things found their way into the lives of the people, to include Western-style buildings as well as the use of electricity and petroleum.

The international status of the state was upgraded from the Joseon kingdom to the Daehan Empire in 1897. Seoul (then still officially known as Hanseong) transformed steadily into a city that was a mixture of East Asian tradition and Western modernity. Gyeongungung Palace (now Deoksugung) became the imperial palace; new streets were built, and a streetcar line was installed along Jongno. Several public parks appeared as well. In 1904, however, the Japanese military, which occupied the capital, dashed the hopes of the Daehan Empire.



1910 ~ 1945
Seoul under Japanese Control
Shades of Modern Urbanization

In August 1910, Japan forcibly annexed the Daehan Empire and established the Japanese Government-General.
This institution held virtually absolute authority over administrative, military, legislative and judicial matters.
The prefectures for Seoul, Incheon, Gaeseong and Gyeonggido were put under the newly formed Gyeongseongbu (Capital Prefecture). However Seoul (then officially known as Gyeongseong) remained the capital. Located here were the headquarters of the colonial government, along with major businesses, schools and cultural institutions.
Ethnic discrimination became institutionalized. Persons of Japanese nationality were in charge of all administrative functions, and resources were concentrated in the area south of Cheonggyecheon, where the Japanese lived. Although Korean residents opposed the discriminatory practices, the allure of the “Namchon (southern neighborhood)” did not diminish.
This was where the latest products and modern developments could be experienced, but the Korean residents were reduced to onlookers only. The Korean capital modernized quickly under Japanese colonial rule, but the modernity of a colonial city merely fascinated Koreans. It did not include them.



1945 ~ 2002
Period of Rapid Growth Seoul
Rising from the Ashes to become a Metropolis

Seoul became the capital of a sovereign nation in 1945, with Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, and three years later, it was upgraded to “Special City” status. However, the city was plagued by poverty as refugees poured in from North Korea and masses of ethnic Koreans returned to their homeland from overseas. Making matters worse, the Korean War broke out in 1950, and soon the city was in ruins. After the war, economic development returned, and Seoul began to transform into a huge, modern metropolis. The construction industry advanced steadily with the pressing need for more water mains, sewage systems, roads, subways, housing and schools to accommodate the explosive population growth. Streets were laid in the area south of the Hangang River, and the boundaries of the Seoul metropolitan area continued to expand. The ‘Miracle on the Han River’ brought industrialization, economic growth, democratization, and governmental decentralization to the nation.


Seoul, Now and in the Making...
The City Model Image Hall

The hall serves as a multifunctional exhibition space that holds lectures or seminars about urban life. It is also used as an educational tool for students and citizens to understand the city's natural and urban environment, while presenting foreigners the improvements that Seoul has made and its future vision to raise the city's profile.




Exhibition Hall of Donated Collection


Exhibition Hall 1: Leading craftspeople of Seoul

Leading craftspeople of Seoul

Displaying the donated work pieces (handicrafts and folk liquor) by 29 people (including four deceased) designated as intangible cultural properties of Seoul.


Exhibition Hall 2: 20 Years after 1994
20 Years after 1994: a special exhibition of donated heritage items


Visitors will see what the life of people in Seoul was like in 1994, the 600th anniversary of Seoul’s designation as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).


Exhibition Hall 3: High ranking officials of Hanyang (today’s Seoul)

High ranking officials of Hanyang (today’s Seoul)


Exhibition Hall 3 displays relics from noble families who lived in Hanyang during the Joseon Dynasty. The high ranking officials were those who followed Confucianism and held government positions. These individuals studied Confucianism from a young age, and were considered to be scholars. They took national examinations and took high-ranking government positions after passing the examinations. In particular, the nobles who resided in Hanyang were central figures in leading politics and society during the Joseon Dynasty. In Exhibition Hall 3, visitors can see the lifestyles of nobles and the culture of Hanyang through the donated relics that have been passed down through several famous families of the Joseon Dynasty.


Exhibition Hall 4: Unhyeongung Palace

Unhyeongung Palace


Exhibition Hall 4 displays the relics from Unhyeongung Palace, which was the private residence of Prince Regent Heungseon. King Gojong was born and lived at this residence until he was 12 years old. After Gojong's ascension to the throne, Unhyeongung Palace became the center of Prince Regent Heungseon 's reformative politics. It was the birthplace of reformation, and it was where reformative politics were conceived and practiced during Daewongun's 10 years as regent. Unhyeongung Palace scaled down and changed several times in the midst of modern architecture, but it tells stories about the tumultuous historical times during the dawn of modern Korea. Descendants of the Unhyeongung Palace, who have maintained the palace even under difficulties, have donated some 6,000 relics to the Seoul Museum of History. Visitors will be able to sense the culture of the last royal families of the Joseon Dynasty through these relics.


Exhibition Hall 5: Seoul Photograph

Seoul Photograph


Seoul’s Portrait from Four Perspectives
The Seoul Photography Exhibition features 105 photographs selected from among donations by photographers Kim Han-yong, Im In-sik, Han Yeong-su, and Hong Sun-tae. The photos spans the time of Korea’s independence to the 1970s, capturing scenes from a national ceremony in front of the main government building, laundry hung out to dry in the shantytown in Cheonggyecheon, people collecting ice at the Hangang River, residents enjoying the sun on the river’s sandy banks, and much more. The exhibition shows the old way of life in Seoul and how it has changed over the years.





Exhibition Hall Information
Special Exhibition Hall (1F)
This spacious hall offers various exhibitions on the history and culture of Seoul and hosts other exhibitions by contributing organizations and artists.

Exhibition Hall of Donated Collections (1F)
Displays donated collections

Permanent Exhibition Hall (3F)
Divided into 4 sections; Seoul, the Capital of Joseon, People's Life in Seoul, Culture of Seoul, and Development of the Seoul City.



History and Culture Class for Foreigners

The Seoul Museum of History provides overseas museum goers visiting Korea with opportunities to learn more about the history and culture of Seoul through exhibitions and experience-focused activities.

         Title : “Seoul in the Past, and Landmarks of the City”

Participants : Groups of foreigners staying in Korea

Number of Participants : 30-50 for each lecture

Venue : Education and Exhibition Halls in the Seoul Museum of History

Application : Via fax or e-mail after a telephone inquiry

Telephone : 02-724-0194

Fax : 02-724-0195

E-mail :

Qualification for Application

  • Priority will be given to the organizations that can effectively manage their participants in the lectures.

  • There will be no interpretation service during the lecture.

  • Successful applicants are required to send to the museum the application form and a list of participants at least one week prior to the lecture.



Admission / Participation Fees
Free (Separate charges may apply for some special exhibitions)


Foreign Language Intepretation Services
Audio Guide free rental available (Information Desk, 1F)
Available languages: English, Japanese, Chinese
Hours: 10:00-19:00 (rental: 10:00-17:00)



Road ViewLocation

Address : 서울 종로구 새문안로 55

Location : Seoul-si > Jongno-gu
Human beings learn many things by traveling. We broaden our understanding on different worlds as exposing to unfamiliar scenes and cultures. And through those comparison analogy, one can conceive bett > READ MORE
Human beings learn many things by traveling. We broaden our understanding on different worlds as exposing to unfamiliar scenes and cultures. And through those comparison analogy, one can conceive better about himself or herself.

Seoul Museum of History is also a place to take a journey; but it is 'time travel,' not 'space travel' which is the only
discernable difference.
It is the Seoul Museum of History where a person attains knowledge and vision on how Seoul was born, has been transformed to the present as a world-class city, and will be changed in the future.

Seoul Museum of History presents the root of Seoul, the life of Seoul people and the changes of the modern Seoul in permanent
exhibition with diverse donated collection testifying the history and culture of Seoul. Moreover, enriched various traditional workshops
and culture events for children, families and adults are ready to be enjoyed.
> Less more
Address: 55, Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Contact: +82-2-724-0274 (information desk); fax: +82-2-274-0241
Closed: January 1 and Mondays (However, the convenience facilities on the first floor are always open)

By Bus)
1 Seoul Museum of History(Gyeggyojang) : Bus Station No. 01-123
Blue bus : 101, 160, 260, 270, 271, 273, 370, 470, 471, 601, 704, 710, 720, 721

2 Seoul Museum of History(Gyeggyojang) : Bus Station No. 01-122
Blue bus : 160, 260, 270, 271, 273, 370, 470, 471, 600, 602, 702A, 702B, 705, 710, 720, 721
Green bus : 7019
Gbus : 1002

3 Gwanghwamun : Bus Station No. 01-121
Blue bus : 160, 260, 270, 271, 273, 370, 470, 471, 600, 702A, 702B, 703, 705, 710, 720, 721
Green bus : 7019

4 Seoul Museum of History(Gyeggyojang) : Bus Station No. 01-250
Red bus : 2500, 9701, 9709, 9710

5 Gyeonghuigung : Bus Station No. 01-761
Airport bus : 6002

By Subway)
1 7 minutes' walk (470m) from Exits 6, 7, 8, Gwanghwamun Station, Seoul Subway Line No.5
2 8 minutes' walk (600m) from Exit 4, Seodaemun Station, Seoul Subway Line No.5
3 10 minutes' walk (720m) from Exit 7, Gyeongbokgung Station, Seoul Subway Line No.3
4 15 minutes' walk (850m) from Exit 1, 2, 3, Seoul City Hall Station, Seoul Subway Line No.1
5 16 minutes' walk (980m) from Exit 12, Seoul City Hall Station, Seoul Subway Line No.2

Opening Hours

Sat, Sun, Holidays

Closed on January 1st, every Monday (However, the convenience facilities on the first floor are always open)
Exhibition Guide
Permanent exhibition room only

Korean : 11:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm
English, Japanese, Chinese : Audio Guide

Audio Guide Program)
Visit the Information Desk on the first floor of the museum for a free audio guide rental which will give you audio commentary (in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) on each of the permanently exhibited and donated items.
How to rent: You need to show your ID card and fill in an application form with basic information such as your name, mobile phone number, and the number of players to be rented.
How to return: Return your rented audio guide player(s) to Information Desk to retrieve your ID card.
※ Note: You cannot rent an audio guide player without your ID card.