National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea
National Museum of Korea
Hangul 국립중앙박물관
RR Gungnip Jung-ang Bangmulgwan
MR Kungnip Chung'ang Pangmulgwan
Established 1945
Location 135 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Type History and Art
Collection size over 220,000 pieces
Museum area 137,201 square metres (1,480,000 sq ft)
Visitor figures 2,730,204 (2009)[1]
Director Kim Youngna, 11th director (since February 9th, 2011)

Coordinates: 37°31′24″N 126°58′47″E / 37.52334°N 126.9797°E / 37.52334; 126.9797

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,[2] 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 October 2005, the museum opened in a new building in Yongsan Family Park in Seoul, South Korea. The museum sit on what used to be Yongsan golf course. The US Army return the land to the Korean government in promise that the land will remain as a park. However Korean government broke an agreement with the US Army when it was decided to build a museum. The museum contains over 220,000 pieces in its collection with about 13,000 pieces on display at one time. It displays relics and artifacts throughout six permanent exhibition galleries such as Archaeological Gallery, Historical Gallery, Fine Arts Gallery I, Donation Gallery, Fine Arts Gallery II, and Asian Art Gallery. It is the sixth largest museum in the world in terms of floor space, now covering a total of 137,201 square metres (1,480,000 sq ft).[3]

In order to protect the artefacts 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.



Emperor Sunjong established Korea's first museum, the Imperial Household Museum, in 1908. 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.


Exhibition Hall
Exterior of Museum

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 Archaeological 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.

Artifacts from important prehistoric sites and settlements such the Bangudae Petroglyphs and Songgung-ni are found in the Neolithic and Bronze Age Rooms.

Also on the first floor is the Historical 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 Fine Arts Gallery I, which contains 890 pieces of art that showcase the traditional and religious arts of Korea in line and color. The Fine Arts Gallery I is divided into four rooms: the Painting Room, the Calligraphy Room, the Buddhist Paintings Room, and the Wooden & Lacquer Crafts Room.

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 Jeong-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 Fine Arts Gallery II, 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.

Representative pieces

Gold Crown, National Treasure of Korea No. 191

Silla Golden Crown

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

Pensive Bodhisattva

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.

Ceradon Openwork Incense Burner, National Treasure of Korea No. 95

Ceradon Openwork Incense Burner

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

Ten-Story Pagoda

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

"Dancing Boy" by Danwon.

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. [4]

Former special exhibitions

Treasures from Pyongyang

Previously, 90 significant cultural artifacts on loan from the Korean Central History Museum in Pyongyang were on display at the National Museum of Korea, from Jun 13, 2006 to August 16, 2006 (an exhibition followed at the Taegu National Museum from August 28 to October 26). The exhibit was designed to engender other cultural property exchanges between the two Koreas. Artifacts of note included a 138.3 centimeter bronze statue of Wang Geon (excavated in 1992 from his mausoleum in Kaesong), famous paintings from the Joseon Dynasty, and a bird bone flute from 2000 BCE (the oldest existent musical instrument from Korea).[5]

General information

  • Address: 135 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 140-026, Korea
  • Admission charge: Free to Permanent Exhibition & Children’s Museum, except for special exhibitions
  • Transportation

See also


External links

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