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Changing of the Royal Guard

Changing of the Royal Guard

A bit of historical drama mixes with Seoul’s modernity each day in downtown Seoul with the Changing of the Royal Guards at Deoksugung (Palace).  The 11am event on Tuesdays includes a parade of royal guards mounted on horseback.

The Guard Changing Ceremony, with its colorful period costumes and a swirl of music and royal flags, is reenacted three times a day (except Mondays) at 11am, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm in front of Daehanmun (Daehan Gate) at Deoksugung (Deoksu Palace). The performance lasts about 30 minutes and attendance is free. (NB: Shows are cancelled in case of rain or extremely hot/cold weather – no performance 4-6 August, usually the hottest days of the year.)

The Bosingak Bell Ringing Ceremony begins with a street patrol departing from the palace at 11:30 am, and ends at Bosingak Bell Pavilion at 12:30 pm.. The parade starts from Deoksugung (Palace), passes by Seoul Plaza, Taepyeongno, and Cheonggye Plaza, before reaching Bosingak. Every day at noon, the bell is struck. (K4E note: According to Seoul Tourism, visitors can take part in the ceremony of striking the bell by applying on line - however, the site is in Korean only.)

On Tuesdays, the parade of the mounted royal guards (courtesy of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency) starts from the annex building of Seoul City Hall and passes by the stone walls of Deoksugung (Palace) before arriving at the palace’s front gate to participate in the 11am performance. These guards traditionally patrolled the capital, watching for thieves and fires. During the parade, time is allotted for visitors to take photographs with the guards and horses, decked out in traditional finery. After the Ceremony of the Changing of the Royal Guards is completed, the mounted guards proceed to Bosingak Belfry in Jongno.  

About the Reenactment:
During the Joseon era, there was a military unit stationed at the royal palaces called the Sumungun. It was responsible for opening and closing the palace gates, as well as guarding and patrolling the area around the gate. The Ceremony is a re-enactment of those days.

The proceedings start when the officer in charge, called the “sumunjang,” which literally means gateway leader, receives the new password from the king via his royal ministers. The gate soldiers are called “sumungun,” meaning gateway soldiers. When the new shift of sumungun arrives, the second-in-command of both the old and new squad, compare passwords to verify the identity of the new men.

The next three official steps of protocol are signaled by a drum beat. At the first sounding of the drum, the palace key is handed over to the new sumunjang. At the second drum, he then accepts the “bushin,” a royal order needed to open and close the gate. The old sumunjang also hands off the official sumunjang badge to his replacement. Finally at the third drum, the new squad is officially in charge.

Deoksugung (Deoksu Palace) is located directly across from the Seoul City Hall and Seoul Plaza. At City Hall subway station Line 2, Stop 201, go out exit #1 or out exit #2 at the same station on Line 1, Stop 132. (City Hall Station is a transfer point so it has two lines running into it
Bosingak Bell Pavillion is near Insa-dong. To get there, go to Jonggak subway station, line 1, Stop 131, and go out exit #4.

Info: To confirm whether or not the performance has been cancelled, call the KTO help line: 1330 or during business hours the City of Seoul Helpline 120.
For more details, visit the Royal Guard website - best to go in via Internet Explorer. Some information in English. The Seoul Tourism website also provides details and images in English.

Image Source

Last Updated on 2013-01-05

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