I’ve always wanted to be a princess.
Like every other little girl, Disney princesses influenced my childhood in a big way. I loved everything pink and girly and eventually went on to grow an unhealthy relationship with tiaras. But, as someone who never saw anything more than my local ghetto, I never thought I would ever get to live as a ‘princess’ let alone travel to another country and see a real palace! However, Disney is correct:
Dreams really do come true!
My program has tons of excursions planned for the summer as a way for participants to really experience the history and culture of South Korea. On our first, day we visited one of the countries largest and long-standing palaces. Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.
The palace itself sits in front of the most gorgeous mountain I have ever seen in my life. Walking out of the subway to the street entrance was a truly ethereal moment. I remember the mountain and the palace seeming larger than life. I had to stop and take it all in before continuing on with my group. Across the street, in front of the entrance is the statue King Sejong who is also featured on one fo the Korean Won bills.
Beyond the palace itself, my favorite part of the site was the locals donning the traditional attire. Hanboks are beautiful and I noticed there were many couples at the palace taking engagement photos. It’s so interesting to me that even younger generations embrace their culture in that way.
Seeing locals in this way added to the mystery that is the palace. I could just imagine princesses and kings and servants walking the grounds centuries and centuries ago. the most shocking blend of history and now was Korean males walking around in the female Hanboks. I saw several young men and boys openly wearing the traditional dress meant for women and even a few young women wearing the dress meant for males.
To me, this was brave as I know Korean culture to be more conservative than most places. Their openness and display of sexuality is representative of a new era not only in Korea but modern society. It is representative of acceptance as well as intersectionality. Witnessing that moment was like witnessing history.