Disclaimer: Originally posted on the SUNY New Paltz Study Abroad Student Blog Posts – a few edits may have been made.
I am always amazed that South Korea has modern and traditional buildings right next to each other. I think it is great to change old buildings with new ones, but by preserving the countries landmarks, it helps not only the native people but also people who are visiting, tourists and international students, to understand the country’s history.
In the past, I have watched many Korean dramas. So it was really exciting to put myself in the setting. It was fascinating that I could walk on the same ground as kings and officials did.
When I went to the Temporary Palace in Suwon, it was not as grand and fancy as I thought it would be but I had a great time learning about South Korean history. The palace was used during the Joseon Period when King Jeongjo (왕정조) reign. The day after visiting the palace, I saw the movie, The Fatal Encounter, which helped me understand the situation a little bit better. King Jeongjo’s (왕정조) grandfather ordered people to kill King Jeongj0’s (왕정조) father, the crown prince. A crown prince, and there can be multiple crown princes at the time, is the next in line for becoming king. After watching all these monarchy dramas, it was no surprise to me that something like this could happen.
While we were given the tour I saw the box, not the exact box that was used to kill King Jeongjo’s (왕정조) father, and before the tour guide even told us that the box was used as a torture/killing device, I already had a feeling that that was the purpose of a box. I mean why else would they have such a huge box, decoration? The story goes, they put King Jeongjo’s (왕정조) father inside the box, which was nailed shut so he could not escape. He was left in the box under the heat for 10 days, till he died. If you ever happen to have the chance to see the movie its more graphic. In the scene King Jeongjo’s father had his fingernails chipped and covered in blood, possibly from the attempts to escape and feces was on his clothes.
Post his father’s death, King Jeongjo (왕정조) felt deep regret for not being able to be filial, a characteristic that is popular in Asian cultures because of Confucianism, to his parents. Thus when he was on the battlefield he personally protected his mother to make up for not being to protect his father when he was younger. There is actually an extensive image in the Temporary Palace of the format of the battlefield and you can see where King Jeongjo (왕정조) and his mother was in the format. The tour guide told the group that she told her son about King Jeongjo’s action and her son did not say he would do the same for his mom, what a great kid! I believe that King Jeongjo’s (왕정조) traumatic experience caused him to have to react in this way.
King Jeongjo (왕정조) personality, as described by many, shows that he was powerful, influential, and a great leader. In addition he was high in conscientious, because he was hard working and sincere, and always thought of how his actions and decisions would effect the Korean people. He read books daily, exercised, and cared for his people. King Jeongjo (왕정조) was probably in the low average area of the spectrum for agreeable because he did not simply agree to officials’ comments. Overall, King Jeongjo (왕정조) left a good impression on me because he is a resilient person for being able to put up with so many opposing factors and he is a person I admire.