Korea was initially divided into northern and southern halves following the end of World War II. However, after the ceasefire arrangement following the countless destruction and loss of 3 million lives from a Soviet-approved invasion of the South by the north, the country was indefinitely divided.
The DMZ’s uniqueness makes it Korea’s most popular destination for foreign visitors. However, visitation to the DMZ is strictly prohibited. Due to this prohibition, the area has become one of the most well-preserved stretches of wilderness in the world. Direct visits may be prohibited, but there are several tourist agencies that provide tours to Panmunjeom, or the Joint Security Area where the armistice between North and South was signed in 1953. The unification observatory, tunnels North Koreans have constructed under the DMZ and Woljeongri Station, the last train station before the DMZ, can also be visited. Also, there are a lot more things to do in Seoul.
There are several reasons for DMZ’s uniqueness. It stands as the last bastion of the Cold War and visitors can learn about peace and conflict. Also, it is a place where one must visit to gain understanding of Korean psyche, which as be largely formed through the occupations, wars and division the nation has suffered. Most of the popular DMZ attractions are located within 90 minutes of Seoul.
Three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded, the first royal palace built was the Gyeongbokgung in 1395. The location of the Gyeongbokgung was appointed capital of Seoul, back then known as Hanyang, and represented the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongbokgun is the largest of among Gyeonghuigung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggun, and Changdeokgung, the 5 Grand Palaces, and served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Until the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592-1598, Gyeongbokgung continued to serve as the main palace. All the palaces were severely damaged and Gyeongbokgun was not reconstructed until 1868. The palace was expanded to a 410,000 square meter complex with over 500 buildings. Gyeongbokgung flourished for several decades until the Japanese once again destroyed the palaces during their occupation of Korea in 1910-1945. Restored buildings were torn down, Gwanghwamun Gate was relocated and the Japanese General Government Building was contructed in front of the main area of the palace.
Since 1990, there has been an ongoing effort by the Korean government to rebuild and restore the buildings destroyed. The 40 year restoration project aims to fully restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its original form. The palace is currently open to the public and houses National Palace Museums of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea. Only 40% of the buildings have been restored, but there are many beautiful things to see at the palace.