Gyeongbokgung was built three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded and it served as its main palace. With Mount Bugaksan as a backdrop and the Street of Six Ministries (today’s Sejongno) outsideGwanghwamun Gate, the main entrance to the palace, Gyeongbokgung was situated in the heart of the Korean capital city. It was steadily expanded before being reduced to ashes during the Japanese invasion of 1592. For the next 273 years the palace grounds were left derelict until being rebuilt in 1867 under the leadership of Prince Regent Heungseon Daewongun. The restoration was completed on a grand scale, with 330 buildings crowded together in a labyrinthine configuration. Within the palace walls were the Outer Court (oejeon), offices for the king and state officials, and the Inner Court (naejeon), which included living quarters for the royal family as well as gardens for leisure. Within its extensive precincts were other palaces, large and small, including Junggung (the Queen`s residence) and Donggung (the Crown prince’s residence).
Owing to its status as the symbol of national sovereignty, Gyeongbokgung was demolished during the Japanese occupation of the early 20th century. In 1911, ownership of land at the palace was transferred to the Japanese Governor-General. In 1915, on the pretext of holding an exhibition, more than 90% of the buildings were torn down. Following the exhibition the Japanese leveled whatever still remained and built their colonial headquarters, the Government-General Building (1916–26), on the site.
Restoration of Gyeongbokgung to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990. The Government-General Building was removed in 1996 and Heungnyemun Gate (2001) and Gwanghwamun Gate (2006-2010) were reconstructed in their original locations and forms. Reconstructions of the Inner Court and Crown Prince’s residence have also been completed.