When I mentioned to fellow Australians I was going to see the Changing of the Guard on my trip to South Korea, I could see the confusion in their faces as I’m sure they were picturing Beefeaters with large cylindrical black fur hats, gallantly dressed horses and all that pomp and pageantry that comes with the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but no I was talking about the Changing of the Guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace the oldest and most important royal palace in Seoul.
I was taking a free walking tour of the palace buildings and grounds and when I met my guide, she told me that the Changing of the Guard ceremony was going to take place first and we ‘d start our walking tour after. As the crowd grew a lone drummer announced the ceremonies commencement by beating his drum and the sentries entered the palace grounds from the west gate.
The guard changing ceremony had been taking place since 1429 through to the ending of the monarchy. The modern re-enactment comes from official records of the daily ceremony from those ancient times.
The guards looked resplendant in their bold primary coloured uniforms accessorised with weaponry and flags as they perfromed the ceremonial parade to the front of the palace main gates known as – Gwanghwamun Gate
All of us camera weilding tourists ran from the courtyard out to the front of Gwanghwamun Gate as the guards exchanged places with precise ceremonial steps.
As the sentries exchanged places in front of Gwanghwamun Gate and the old guard leave, the new guard will stand, weapons and flags drawn, to protect the palace – for the next hour anyway.
Before I rejoined my guide for the walking tour of Gyeongbokgung palace, there’s time for a few pictures. Tourists from around the world getting their photos taken with the straight faced guards who do not flinch or move a muscle during their hour on duty – kind of like those Beefeaters in London 😉
The changing of the guard takes place 6 times daily on the hour between 1000 and 1500, everyday except Tuesdays and Christmas day.