The palace was built in the mid-15th century by King Sejong for his father, Taejong. It was originally named “Suganggung,” but it was renovated and enlarged in 1483 by King Seongjong, at which time it received its current name. Many structures were destroyed during Japan’s multiple late 16th century attempts to conquer Korea and invade China. It was rebuilt by successive Joseon Kings but was once again largely destroyed by the Japanese in the early 20th century, but this time torn down methodically to make room for a modern park, a showplace for the empire, akin to Tokyo’s Ueno Park.
During the Japanese colonial period, the Japanese built a zoo, botanical garden, and museum on the site. After independence in 1945 and the turmoil and destruction of the 1950-53 Korean War, the zoo was restocked through donations of wealthy Korean and gifts from foreign zoos. In 1983 the zoo and botanical garden were relocated to what is today known as Seoul Grand Park.