▲ The statue of King Sejong welcomes people in Gwanghwamun Plaza.Photographed by Lim Jae Heun.
In front of Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung, the royal palace of Joseon Dynasty, two representative monuments of Seoul stand with dignity as the face of Seoul, the statue of King Sejong and the statue of General Yi Sun Shin. After the successful unveiling ceremony in 2009—the King Sejong statue became a great friend of citizens. Right behind the statue, a secret passageway leads to an underground basement exhibition hall. There, the commemorative exhibition of King Sejong, The Story of King Sejong Constant Exhibition is being held.
King Sejong, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, is the figure highly respected by Koreans. He was the most diversely talented person who had ever lived in Korea, which is the reason why descendants call him Sejong the Great. In 2009, with the statue of King Sejong receiving acclaim after being made public, the exhibition The Story of King Sejongwas curated at the same time. The exhibition, which consists of seven sections, displays the overall life and the greatest historical achievements of the king.
When visitors take a first step into the glass entrance, they are welcomed by a fifteen-fold digital folding screen. On the screen, a video clip projects images of traditional Korean water and ink paintings, illustrating various inventions of King Sejong in harmony with poetic scenes of nature. Sitting in front of the images, visitors can feel a relaxing, and peaceful atmosphere of nature while the energetic spirits of inventions tremble their hearts. Stepping further with beating heart, the audience can appreciate two poems, “Samiingok,” and “Sokmiingok” neatly written in Humminjeongeun by Jeong Cheol.
▲ Digital folding screen projects natural scenery and artworks of King Sejong.Photographed by Lim Jae Heun.
Hunminjeongeum is the traditional version of Korean, Hangeul. This Hunminjeongeum is the very creation of King Sejong. Allegedly, due to the strong objections of his cabinet members, he by himself created the alphabet only with a little help from scholars. What touches visitors is that the reason he forced his way to make Hangeul was his people. The exhibition illustrates his genuine heart and expounds the science behind the principles, with various references such as Yongbieocheonga, the first work written in Hunminjeongeum. Furthermore, speculators can jump to the last section, Hangeul Library, to learn about the Korean alphabet and King Sejong more in detail.
Hangeul is not merely used in historical documents in the exhibition. The hall is festooned with facilities that are inspired by the Korean alphabet. Visitors can find that the exhibition did not miss even the minute details in the gallery. For instance, chairs in the hall are not typical chairs, but they are motivated by the word from Hangeul. Although it is not an artwork, viewers take pictures and enjoy sitting on the chair because of its uniqueness. Likewise, the descriptions that explain the artworks are
embellished with calligraphy. Like the examples, beautiful pieces which employ Korean characters beckon viewers to look around the gallery actively.
▲ The sun dial, Angbuilgu, is preserved as a treasure number 845 in Korea.Photographed by Lim Jae Heun.
King Sejong won imperishable renown not just for his linguistic achievements, but also for his insights in science, art, and military strategies. The exhibition allocates sections for his achievements in these areas right after introducing Hangeul. For example, in the middle of the Science & Art section, a large sundial, named Angbuilgu, stands under the twinkling astronomical chart ceiling. The sundial was invented by the order of the king to enable exact measurement for people. He also deterred invasions by the Japanese to protect his people, having strong military forces. After touring these sections, visitors will feel that his love for human being is instilled in them spontaneously.
▲ The chair is employing Hangeul, A-iku. Photographed by Lim Jae Heun.
The exhibition is also credited for its services. Since there are many foreigners from various nations visiting Gwanghwamun Plaza and the museum, the exhibition is elucidated by five languages guide services as follows: Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. The guide is offered either in the form of personal digital assistant (PDA) or visitors can use their own smartphone to download the guide application “Guideple.” Not only does the exhibition provide an audio guide, but it also provides
subtitles that foreigners can take advantage of. Moreover, there are customized multimedia for foreign visitors to experience the basic principles and elements of Hangeul, eliciting interests from them.
Unlike other galleries, the Sejong Center gives careful consideration to those in need, especially for the disabled. Thanks to the amenities, all visitors can cherish the moments in the exhibition. For example, it lends wheelchairs and strollers, and gives sign language videos, braille, and hearing aids free of charge. Therefore, anyone can receive the same service without discrimination, which is akin to the philosophy of King Sejong.
▲ The image of the book, Hunminjeonum. Photographed by Lim Jae Heun.
King Sejong said, “Because people form a country’s foundation, a country finds peace only when it has a sturdy foundation.” During his reign, he was always concerned for the people in his country. The exhibition indirectly delivers the message of his philosophy of love for human being by displaying great works of him. By walking through the life and works of King Sejong following each section, visitors have a chance to deeply contemplate and speculate with their heart about King Sejong’s love toward people.
Location: Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, The Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall (B2)
Open Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. (the last admission is at 7:30 P.M.). Closed on Monday