경복궁 (Gyeongbok Palace)
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Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance
This hexagonal pavilion, on an island surrounded by lotus, is one of the loveliest spots in Seoul. But the site's poetic name, Hyang-won-jeon (meaning "pavilion of far-reaching fragrance"), belies some turbulent and sad history that took place nearby. In 1895, at the orders of the Japanese ambassador, assassins entered Gyeongbok-gung Palace at night and brutally murdered Queen Min (also known as Empress Myeongseong) just yards from this pond. The political intrigue leading up to her assassination also led, eventually, to the fall of the Joseon Dynasty and to the foreign occupation. A hundred years later, this account was turned into a musical. The Last Empress (called by some Korea's Evita) played in Seoul for a decade and was performed in London, NY, and Toronto as well. Today, Hyang-won-jeon is one of the most popular spots in Seoul for couples on dates. History's intrigues don't always take center stage. To get to Gyeongbok-gung Palace, take Seoul subway Line 3, Gyeongbokgung station. Open 9-5, closed on Tuesdays.
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