|Virtual reality (VR) tour of the Deoksu Palace is available through Jump VR application provided by SK Telecom. / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic which is preventing visits to cultural heritage sites, Deoksu Palace, one of the remaining royal palaces from the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), is available for virtual visits.
The Deoksugung Palace Management Office under the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), joined hands with Korea's largest mobile operator SK Telecom to provide a virtual reality (VR) application that allows a 360-degree view of the palace's main Western-style building Seokjojeon Hall.
The palace is best known as the venue where King Gojong proclaimed the founding of the Daehan Empire. Deoksu Palace has a mix of Korean traditional and Western architecture, reflecting the wave of modernization that hit Korea in the late 19th century. The name of the palace means "Palace of virtue and longevity" in Korean, in the spirit of praying for a long life for King Gojong.
According to the management office, 470,000 people visited the palace located in the heart of Seoul in the first half of the year, which is about one-third of that of last year. Deoksu Palace is currently in a temporary close-down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, along with other Joseon royal palaces and the Jongmyo Shrine. The reopening date remains unknown.
"Due to COVID-19, Deoksugung Palace has remained closed for several months. Through Deoksugung Palace VR content, we hope everyone will have the opportunity to virtually tour Deoksugung Palace and experience the historical spaces where the emperor strolled a long time ago," said Bang Hyun-ki, director of the Deoksugung Palace Management Office, in a statement.
Users can see a 360-degree panorama of the palatial building while moving around their mobile phone and listen to a guide speak of the historical value of each room or item, similar to an actual on-site visit.
The VR tour offers close-up views of details in the palace such as the ceiling decoration with two dragons in the Junghwajeon Hall and the British antique furniture placed in the emperor's bedroom in the Seokjojeon Hall.
More VR content on other buildings including Daehanmun Gate, Junghwajeon Hall, Hamnyeongjeon Hall, Jeukjodang Hall and Seogeodang Hall are slated for July 17 release. Among them, the inside of Hamnyeongjeon Hall and Seogeodang Hall are not open to the public, but will be available for virtual tours through this application.
The VR tour is free of charge and available through the Jump VR application, provided by SK Telecom, regardless of mobile carrier. Currently, the application is only available for the Android platform.
In addition to the VR service, SK Telecom and CHA introduced "AR Deoksu Palace," a service which allows users to view 12 palace buildings in 3D augmented reality (AR) in March.