This is one of the five palaces of Korea’s last dynasty, the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted for over 500 years from 1392 until 1910. The dynasty had two critical moments: one the end of the 16th century, and the other at the end of the 19th century. Both of them were related to this palace and to Japanese invasion coincidentally.
In 1592, the Japanese army landed in Busan and marched to the capital, Seoul. Prior to their arrival, King Seonjo fled to Uiju, where he stayed for one and a half years. When he returned to Seoul, he had no place to stay because all of the palaces had been burned down during the war. So, he used this place, which was originally the residence of one of his relative’s families, as a temporary palace.
Prince Gwanghaegun succeeded King Seonjo and then renamed this place “Hyeongungung Palace”. After he was overthrown by King Injo, it was not used for about 270 years.
The palace re-entered the annals of history in the late 19th century. After King Gojong returned from the refuge with Russian legation, he chose to reside in this palace. He renamed this palace “Gyeongungung Palace” and expanded it. He also proclamed to the world the establishment of the Daehan Empire and raised his own status from king to that of an emperor. He remained at the palace even after he had been forced to hand over the throne to his son, Emperor Sunjong. The name of the palace was changed at this time to Deoksugung Palace, meaning the “Palace of virtuous longevity.” In 1910, the official Japanese colonization of the Daehan Empire was completed. In 1919, Gojong passed away. His sudden death was one of the causes of the March 1st Independence movement.
Under the colonial rule of Japan, the palace was converted into a public park by Japan. The scale of Deoksugung Palace was decreased to one-third its original size, and the number of buildings reduced to just one-tenth.