Korean Empire, National Palace Museum of Korea

In 1897 King Gojong(1863~1907) formally renamed the Joseon Dynasty to the Korean Empire and declared himself Emperor, in order to assert the nation’s sovereignty amid encroachment from neighboring imperialist powers. He reconstructed Hwangudan, the imperial Altar of Heaven. Since the formation of the empire, Emperor Gojong accelerated national efforts to modernize commerce, politics, diplomacy, society and culture. New systems and technologies were introduced from Japan, the U.S. and Europe and openly accepted by Korean society through government encouragement. Although the modernization effort was failed by Japan, who forcibly occupied Korea in 1910, it planted in the minds of Koreans the courage and pride to maintain their culture throughout the brutal occupation period.


Seal and Case of Emperor Gojong
This was the seal of the state, used as the signature of Emperor Gojong, and applied to official letters of correspondence. The handle is in shape of a tortoise and the characters ‘Hwangje-eosae (Seal of Emperor)’ were inscribed upon it. This seal was specially used for the confidential letters of the Emperor to his allies when requesting support for the Korean Empire, in impeding Japan’s imperialist aims after the Russo-Japanese War.

Seoseong Daehunjang (Medal of the Auspicious Star)
This grand order was established in August 1902, and was one of the highest orders of merit in the Korean Empire. It was awarded to civil and military officials who were members of the Imperial family already bestowed with the Ihwadaehunjang (the Grand Order of Plum Blossom) for particularly brilliant exploits. The formal medal was hung on a violet sash decorated with the shape of a plum blossom. The set including the formal medal consists of the chest badge, the lapel pin and the silver storage box.

Gold Seal of Empress Consort Myeongseong
Created in 1897, the gold seal of Empress Consort Myseongseong, was engraved with ‘Hwanghujibo (Seal of the Empress)’. This was produced for the posthumous entitlement of Queen Consort Myeongseong to Empress Consort as King Gojong ascended the throne as the emperor. The jade seal with a tortoise-shaped handle of the Joseon dynasty was changed to a gold seal with a dragon-shaped handle during the period of the Korean Empire.

Royal Protocols for the State Funeral of Empress Consort Myeongseong
This book includes the record about the process of organizing the state funeral of Empress Consort Myeongseong and the management of Gukjangdogam (the superintendent office for the state funeral) after the proclamation of the Korean Empire. The Japanese murdered Empress Consort Myeongseong in 1895; however, her funeral was put on hold because of the political chaos. In 1897 she was elevated from queen to empress and the grand state funeral was held.

Folding Screen of the Feast for Empress Myeongheon’s 70th birthday
The painting on this ten-panel folding screen depicts the feast to celebrate the 70th birthday of Empress Myeongheon (the Consort to King Heonjong), which was held in 1901. In this painting, the imperial banquet follows the typical format of a royal ritual event, however, the new elements of the Korean Empire are also observed. The event on the first and second panels was held in Junghwajeon Hall in Gyeongungung Palace (current Jeukjodang Hall in Deoksugung), and the other panels depict the feast held in Junmyeongdang Hall. The golden yellow throne and the imperial folding throne are identified with due formality of the imperial state. Also depicted is the symbolic flag for the Korean Empire, Taeguekgi. The Korean flag appears on the second panel.

Gold Investiture Book of Empress Consort Myeongseong
In 1897, as Queen Min was elevated to Empress Myeongseong, the gold investiture book was produced with the gold seal. In accordance with the imperial form of the Korean Empire, the investiture book was gold instead of Jade of the Joseon dynasty. The design of this was based on the style of the Chinese Ming dynasty. It seems that originally the two boards were connected with red string, but the string does not remain.

Plaque of Gyeongungung Palace
This is a signboard that the characters ‘Gyeongungung,’ the old name of Deoksugung Palace, were written on. Originally this was hung in Jeukjodang Hall. The characters on the plaque were personally written by Emperor Gojong. After a year of refuge at the Russian legation, King Gojong moved to Gyeongungung Palace in 1897 and used Jeukjodang Hall as the main hall until the completion of Junghwajeon Hall.

Hojo Taehwan-gwon (Printing Plates for Producing Convertible Notes Issued by the Ministry of Taxation)
Taehwan-gwon (convertible notes) issued by Hojo(the Ministry of Taxation) was the first paper currency of Korea and was an interchangeable certificate for exchanging the old and new banknotes. To impose the modern monetary system, it was introduced by Taehwanseo (Office for Conversion) under the Ministry of Taxation. The original plan was to change the old money, yeopjeon (brass coin), to four kinds of convertible currency bills worth 50, 20, 10, and 5 yang, then, changing the bills again to the new currency which was made of silver or bronze. However, this plan was not carried out because of operational problems, so the plate was never issued for commercial use.

Military Uniform of Imperial Crown Prince Yeong during Childhood
This military attire takes the form of a captain’s ceremonial uniform. The outer fabric was made of red cotton flannel and the material of the lining fabric was satin. The front of the uniform was decorated with a pattern of plum flowers and knotted buttons. Military uniforms were based on rank. The number of ‘人’ shaped insignias on the sleeves denoted rank. The captain had eight lines.

National Palace Museum of Korea
The National Palace Museum of Korea houses a magnificent collection of art and objects from the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, representing the majesty and dignity of the 500-year history of the Joseon Dynasty. The Museum seeks to broaden public knowledge of the artistic and cultural legacy of the Joseon Dynasty by being active in research, exhibitions, and educational programs.

The National Palace Museum of Korea promotes and preserves the culture of the Joseon royal and Korean imperial court by collecting, conserving, researching and exhibiting the related relics and artifacts. You can see the permanent exhibitions by diverse subjects and special exhibitions based on in-depth stories related to the Joseon royal and Korean imperial court with multifarious display methods. Various learning programs and cultural events are available in the museum.

The museum also plays its role as a culturally core place within Gyeongbokgung Palace district in downtown Seoul. The Museum will stand as the place where the people can view the splendid royal treasures and artifacts, and be a leading institution for increasing the cultural wealth of Korea.