This large complex of buildings (currently nearly 20) originally dates from 992 when the site housed the Taemyon Palace which later became an imperial guest-house and then the Bureau for Confucian Doctrines. In 1089 it became ‘the Kakjagam’ or highest centre of learning in Kaesong for those seeking to enter the civil service. Children of the aristocracy attended this centre of Confucian learning throughout the Koryo period and the subsequent Ri period which ended in the late 19th century.
The Kakjagam was renamed the Songyungwan Academy in 1308 but was brunt down during the failed Japanese Invasion of 1592 –the Imjin War. Thus, Kim Il-sung wasn’t the first Korean to have to deal with a Japanese Invasion. The Academy was rebuilt in 1602 and since 1987 it has been the site of the Koryo museum.
In addition the admiring the beautiful Confucian buildings set in tranquil grounds containing two 500 year old Ginkgo trees and a 900 year old Zelkova tree, all of which miraculously escaped destruction during the 1950-1953 Korean War, the museum houses a modest, but interesting, array of pottery, iron work and other archaeological finds and relics from the Koryo period, in addition to charting the history and evolution of Kaesong itself.
Also here is a reconstruction of the interior King Kongmin’s tomb which we had visited (exterior only open) earlier in the morning.
While the museum principally covers the period prior to Japan’s occupation of the country in 1910, the curators clearly could not resist the inclusion of a few more modern exhibits. My final photograph is of an early 1900’s Japanese chart showing the monetary value placed on Korean men, women, children and oxen. I selected this chart to show you rather than a more unsavoury painting of marauding Japanese slaughtering innocent Koreans.
We were guided through the museum by a local guide – a rather dour and uninspiring one, if I were to be honest. Nonetheless an interesting place to visit, if only for the old buildings – though there is more to the museum than the buildings. It is a welcome break from the “Kim Il-sung trail’.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my visit to Kaesong, North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Koryo Museum – Ginseng and Stamps – or to start this loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – North Korea’s win from the Korean War.