Day trippin’ at museums: National Museum of Korea & Children’s Museum

by Kat Nickola
Stripes Korea

Today we drove up to Seoul to check out the National Museum of Korea, and specifically the Children’s Museum.  It was great!  We’ve been studying Asian history for weeks in our homeschool so this was a fun final field trip.

There are only 200 (100 can be reserved via the Korean website) entries per ‘session’.  There are 6 sessions per day beginning at 9am; each lasts 1.5 hours.  Being a Wednesday we just showed up and hoped for a spot within the 100 first-come first-serve tickets.  There were 196 available!  Weekdays are pretty slow, I gues.  There was a school group of 20 or so kids that arrived, but that was it.  Our entry time was 1:30 which gave us 45 minutes to walk outside, eat our packed lunch, and enjoy the Energy Playground before entering the museum.  The playground was super fun with pedal-run fans and a radio, and even a camera obscura!

Inside the exhibit there were two sections.  The first area changes periodically, and is currently focused on exposing children to four great Korean artists.  The displays were all very interactive and super-genius.  The paintings were shown on screens and when touched would change to tell a story.  There were also crawl-through paintings and an area to add pegs to finish the ‘grapes’, the paintings as puzzles, plus some more screens with interactive art. Both kids loved it!

From there we wandered around the corner to a place filled with brass rubbings.  How I wish I brought paper!!  We had a few post-it notes and rubbed a few dragons and flowers.

Back in the primary exhibit area there are four main sections focusing on ancient Korean life.  A neat thatched house to walk in, grinding stones to try, roof parts to build, and a walk-through ondol home showing how the original floor-heating worked.  Zoe spent a long time grinding, while Avi liked roof tiles.

Another area has dress-ups with awesome crowns that match some of the incredible originals in the main museum.  So, both kids were able to look like a Shilla queen.

Together we walked through a reproduction kiln, and spent a long FUN time trying to assemble broken pottery....these were cool sturdy pieces that popped together with magnets when we got it right: it helped us understand how an archaeologist worked.

We rushed a bit through the final ‘war’ area which mostly featured giant puzzles of ancient war equipment.  Our hour and a half went quickly, but the time was great!  This part of the museum is just so perfect for the under ten age group.

After the Children’s museum we wandered over to the main National Museum where I wanted to just walked through and see the layout and appropriateness for my kiddo’s.  It IS a proper museum with many glass cases and priceless artifacts better for older (and less tired) kids.  We DID, however, make a point to see the awesome authentic gold Silla king’s beautiful crown and belt.  It was awesome!!

So, entry to both museums is FREE!  AND almost all the displays are in English and Korean. Reservations can be made for the Children’s museum at
www.museum.go.kr/program/education/educationChildReserve.jsp?menuID=008002002 (in Korean only), but we had no trouble getting in on this weekday.   There are lockers and a great underground parking deck that cost a reasonable W3,000 for the 3 hours we spent.  You could also easily walk to the museum from the USAG Yongsan back gate.   The Yongsan Family park, with trails, greenspace, and playgrounds is adjacent.

There are educational resources on the museum website, but they are in Korean.  However, the fun scavenger hunt is mostly pictures and obvious.

www.museum.go.kr/site/program/board/basicboard/list?boardid=18613&boardtypeid=96&menuid=007004001&pagesize=10

Directions on the website are sound: 
www.museum.go.kr/site/homepage/menu/viewMenu?menuid=007001004001  
 
On a weekday it took us only 1 hour door to door from our house near Osan AB.  Took I-1 (big 1) the way up and took the 309/ I-17 on the way back; same time each.  Just check Naver Maps app for traffic before deciding your routing.  It’s also very accessible from public transpo, but that will take longer...likely just under 2 hours each way.

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