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NewsThe News articles are written and reviewed by SNU student editors and faculty members.

SNU Museum's Royal Family Exhibit is a Hit

  • July 12, 2006
  • Hit 25880
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On the afternoon of July 10, a visitor stood for a while in front of a large photograph on the second floor of Seoul National University Museum?s special exhibition room, located in Gwanak-gu, Seoul. The photograph (picture above) shows Deokhyeongju, the last princess of the Joseon dynasty, with clear but sad eyes wearing the traditional Japanese garb kimono. This picture was taken in 1925 when Deokhyeongju was 13 years old and about to leave Korea against her will and go for study in Japan.

SNU Museum's photograph exhibition titled,"The Last Imperial Family, Forgotten Daehan Empire", which will be held until August 19, has become a great success. The exhibit displays about 110 photographs related to the Daehan Empire royal family.

Kim Min-ji, 23, who visited the museum commented, ?The pictures of a young Deokhyeongju and the picture of Emperor Gojong's funeral being held in Japanese style left the deepest impression. I felt the pain of a crumbled royal family.?

Seon Il, 39, an arts and science researcher who planned the exhibition, said,"This exhibition has more visitors than any other, and the age group is also more diverse. In addition, it is especially popular among the middle-aged and the elderly."

Recently, a black and white photograph titled 'Handsome Prince' has been popular on Internet portal sites. The person in the picture is Prince Yi Woo, the son of Euiwang, who lived from 1877 to 1955 and was the son of the last emperor, Kojong.

There is a caption below the photograph, explaining,"He was a gallant man who spoke Korean while living in Japan, sang 'The Old Site of Hwangseong', refused Japan's pressure to have him marry a Japanese woman, and ended up marrying Park Chan-ju, the granddaughter of Park Young-hyo."

The reaction of Internet users has been explosive. They posted countless replies praising his looks and character such as"He looks like Won Bin," referring to one of Korea's top actors, and"His spirit is worth of royal heritage." Prince Yi Woo was exposed when a nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 and died when he was barely 33 years old.

One of the interesting aspects regarding the phenomenon of the public's growing attention toward the royal family is the interest of the younger generation. Experts consider that the huge popularity of MBC Drama 'Gung' (Palace), where it shows Korea still living under a monarchy, and curiosity and nostalgia about the wiped out history during the Japanese colonial rule, played a role in attracting the younger generation.

Park So-hee, who created the comic 'Gung' which was adapted into a TV drama, has an Internet cafe with over 93,000 members. Internet websites that want to restore a symbolic dynasty such as"Daehan Royal Family Restoration Association" and"Royal Family Lovers' Association" have over 4,500 members.

Lee Jong-yup, who runs the Daehan Royal Family Restoration Association site, said,"I created the site in 2001 to correct the distorted history about the royal family. In our offline meetings, we hold seminars or visit palaces." Park was also a former member of this site.

In the midst of the royal family syndrome, Yi Hong, 31, who is the granddaughter of Euiwang, recently debuted as a TV actress. Her father is Yi Seok, 65, a singer famous for the hit song"The House of the Pigeon." The birthplace address of Yi Hong is registered as Seoul Jongno-gu Sejongno 1, which is Gyeongbok Palace, the home of the royal family.

There are some royal descendents who have exposed themselves to the public, but the majority of them live abroad or are hidden in Korea.

Yi Hye-won, 51, the grandson of Euiwang and an advisor to the National Palace Museum, said,"My grandfather had 13 sons and nine daughters, but the majority of them were forced to live in Japan and died there. Their lives are a facet of the gloomy Korean modern history."

Culture columnist Seo Jung-shin, 40, analyzed,"The high interest in the royal family can be understood as an extension of the assumption about what if Korea had not become a Japanese colony? The positive interest on foreign royal families such as the British and Japanese royal families seems to have shifted to the Korean royal family."

July 12, 2006
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