By Lee Kyoungmi and Lee Jihae
Seongnakwon, a garden built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), has been opened to the public for the first time in 200 years, with the Seoul Metropolitan Government saying the temporary opening will run from from April 23 to June 11.
The Chinese characters for the garden were specifically chosen to indicate “a garden outside the city to enjoy the beauty of nature.” Built in 1790, Seongnakwon is considered one of the country’s top three gardens along with Soswaewon of Jeollanam-do Province and the Buyongdong gardens on Bogildo Island.
Because human access to the garden has been kept to an absolute minimum, Seongnakwon’s nature such as bedrocks and valleys have been well preserved.
The garden was used as a villa by Prince Euichin (1877-1955), a member of the Korean royal family who actively protested Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. He also utilized the garden as a stronghold for the independence movement.
Public entrance to Seongnakwon was banned upon its privatization after national liberation in 1945, which allowed relatively stable preservation of the nature there. This eventually led to the garden’s designation as a cultural heritage in 1992.
Though the garden is undergoing renovation, the city government announced that it will temporarily allow public access until work is complete. The city also said it hopes to raise awareness of Seongnakwon’s status as the lone traditional garden in Seoul.
Daily tours of up to 20 visitors each are allowed seven times per day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Two of the seven will be conducted in English at 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations are required either through email or phone call, and admission is KRW 10,000.