OWL Magazine Korea

The Residence of Heungseon Daewongun, Unhyeongung Palace

Unhyeongung Palace (Cloud-Supporting Palace) was the residence of Heungseon Daewongun, the father of King Gojong, who was the 26th king of the Joseon Dynasty. It is where King Gojong lived until he ascended to the throne at the age of 12. Currently, it is the only royal palace from the Joseon Dynasty that still maintains its original appearance.

The name Unhyeongung comes from the hill in front of the palace where Seounkan (Observatory of Reading Clouds), an alternative name for Gwansanggak Pavilion, was located. Heungseon Daewongun conducted political affairs here after King Gojong’s coronation, and it was directly connected to the royal palace.

“The Birthplace of Emperor Gojong of the Korean Empire”

Unhyeongung is also the birthplace of Emperor Gojong, who reigned over the Korean Empire. However, the actual location of Gojong’s birthplace has been excluded from the Unhyeongung Palace grounds. The building, which used to be in the northeast of Unhyeongung, was demolished in 1966. In its place, the Central Culture Center was established, and currently, Samsung C&T is using it as a model house.

“The Reduced Scale of Unhyeongung Palace”

Unhyeongung Palace, like other ancient palaces of the Joseon Dynasty such as Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonghuigung, has also seen a significant reduction in scale. During Heungseon Daewongun’s powerful reign, Unhyeongung Palace encompassed a vast area, including what is now Unhyeon Elementary School, the Japan Cultural Center, and the Lifelong Education Center affiliated with Duksung Women’s University. However, its scale was reduced during the Japanese colonial period.

“Buildings Remaining in the Current Palace Grounds”

Despite the reduction in scale, there are still buildings remaining in the current palace grounds:

  • Main Gate: The entrance gate of Unhyeongung Palace.
  • Sujeongsa (Guardhouse): Where the guards and caretakers of Unhyeongung Palace resided.
  • Soteuldaem Gate (Large Gate): The entrance gate connecting the main building of Unhyeongung Palace, Irodang, and Norakdang.
  • Noandang (House of Comfort for the Aged): The living quarters where Heungseon Daewongun spent his daily life. It has a frontage of six kan and a depth of three kan, with additional beams on the eaves for shade.
  • Norakdang (House of Joy for the Aged): The largest and central building in Unhyeongung Palace, with a frontage of ten kan and a depth of three kan. In 1866 (the 3rd year of King Gojong’s reign), one of the ceremonies celebrating King Gojong and Queen Myeongseong was held here. It was used for various important events such as family celebrations and banquets.
  • Irodang (House of the Two Elders): A building that served as the main residence of Unhyeongung Palace. After Norakdang became unavailable for use as the main residence, a new building was constructed in 1869 (the 6th year of King Gojong’s reign). It has a frontage of eight kan and a depth of seven kan, and was designed in an ‘ㅁ’ shape to restrict male access, creating a private space for women.

“The Central Gate Nicknamed Deungyongmun Gate”

Unhyeongung Palace has many gates, and the building between Norandang and Norakdang was also nicknamed Deungyongmun Gate. This is because those who obtained positions among those who came to see Daewongun would leave through the central gate, while those who were unsuccessful would exit through Soteuldaem Gate.

The military officials of Sujeongsa would politely see off those who left through the central gate, which became known as a sign of exchange between Daewongun and the people of Unhyeongung Palace.

Unhyeongung Palace holds the history of Heungseon Daewongun and the Gojong family, who were at the center of late Joseon and modern society. It is a place where you can feel the breath of history from the late Joseon Dynasty to modern times. It is currently open to the public for free.

“Seoul, Residence of Heungseon Daewongun, Birthplace of Gojong, Unhyeongung Palace”

  • Address: 464 Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
  • Phone number: 02-768-9090
  • Operating hours: (April-October) (Tue-Sun) 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, (November-March) (Tue-Sun) 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Last admission: 30 minutes before closing)
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Website: https://www.unhyeongung.or.kr