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K-Royal Culture Festival marks anniversary with wider outreach

By Choi Si-young

Published : April 4, 2024 - 17:39

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A royal dance performance at Gyeongbokgung during the springtime K-Royal Culture Festival in April 2023 (CHA) A royal dance performance at Gyeongbokgung during the springtime K-Royal Culture Festival in April 2023 (CHA)

The biannual festival involving five palaces of Joseon-era (1392-1910) Seoul is expecting to draw the biggest-ever participation by foreign nationals with exclusive programs, as it marks its 10th anniversary this month.

The nine-day event starting April 27 at five palaces -- Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung -- will feature royal music and dance performances as well as tours with royal cuisine tastings.

At Gyeongbokgung, “gugak” or traditional Korean music performances by a 100-member musician group that includes three gugak masters will take place. The program “Royal Music Concert” will be exclusively put on for foreign nationals from May 4-5, with reservations open at creatrip.com. Booking for the same program for the general public will open Friday afternoon at ticketlink.co.kr.

A venue will be set up to taste “royal desserts” at Saenggwabang -- the Gyeongbokgung kitchen where desserts and refreshments for the Joseon royal household were prepared. The Saenggwabang program will be offered to only foreigners from May 1-4, while locals will be able to enjoy it from April 17 to June 24. Tickets are sold separately on the websites previously mentioned.

Seven snack options including “juak” -- fried rice cake -- and therapeutic herbal tea, all prepared according to a recipe written by the king’s doctors in 1607, will be offered.

The nighttime Gyeongbokgung tour, or “Starry Night at Gyeongbokgung,” is a guided tour of the palaces’ northern side that includes a royal “dosirak” -- a boxed meal of dishes enjoyed by the Joseon royals.

Foreigner-only tours will open from May 2-4, with sessions twice daily, while the general public can book spots between April 3 and May 4. Reservations are required through the respective websites.

The “Changdeokgung Moonlight Tour” will be exclusively available for foreigners April 27-28 and May 2-3.

Guided tours will start at Donhwamun, the palace’s main gate, and make stops at various halls and residential quarters -- including Injeongjeon, the palace’s main hall, where Joseon-era kings oversaw state affairs, received foreign officials and held state ceremonies.

Gugak including royal court dances will take place at Nakseon Hall on the edge of Changdeokgung next to the nearby palace Changgyeonggung. Refreshments will be served. For the general public, tours will take place between April 11 to June 2.

The “Seokjo Hall Night Tour” will run May 1-3 for foreigners, and from April 26 to May 25 for locals. The hall is the first Western-style stone building in Seoul built in 1910. Participants have to make online reservations.

For locals and foreigners alike, the festival will showcase the musical “King Sejong 1446,” an ode to the Joseon king who created the Korean writing system, at Gyeongbokgung. It will take place between April 28 and 30, with tickets sold at ticketlink.co.kr.

For those seeking to unwind without fanfare, a two-hour walk on Changdeokgung grounds early in the morning with Lee Si-woo, a writer who has authored books on palaces, is an option. Online reservations at the previous website are needed to join the “Waking up the Palace” program.

Gyeonghuigung, the lesser known palace among the five, will also offer something – for free. The “Meet Gyeonghuigung” program will run from May 2-5. Find the latest updates at royal.cha.go.kr.