This is an icon of a Korean pavilion drawn by my talented illustrator friend, Virginia Alyn.Below is a picture of a real Korean pavilion - part of the Gyongbok palace in Seoul, Korea.
The palace didn't fare as well historically. It was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and it wasn't until 1867 that it was restored to its former glory. It then was crime scene for the very public assassination of Queen Min by Japanese soldiers in disguise, who then ransacked the palace. Queen Min was a powerful leader, more so than her weak husband, King Gojong. She was the leading opponent keeping foreign forces from Korea, most specifically Japan. She even promoted stronger ties with Russia in an attempt to block Japanese influence in the government that had begun to spread. The Japanese saw her as one of their largest obstacles to their expansion plans.
In the early morning of October 8th, 1895, sword bearing assassins dressed in "peculiar robes" and under orders by the Japanese Minister to Korea, broke into the Queen's quarters. The palace itself was swarming with Japanese troops, holding the Korean guards back from the assassination that then occurred. The assassins killed three court ladies. Confirming that one of the women was indeed the Queen, they dragged her body into the pine forest in front of the palace's large complex and burned her body and scattered her ashes. Queen Min was only 43.
King Gojong was so overcome by his wife's murder, he went into seclusion for weeks and when he emerged, he signed a treaty with the Japanese, essentially giving them immense power over Korea. But the one thing he would not agree to was the Japanese insistence that Queen Min be stripped of her title and status and lowered to a commoner status. The King was purported to state that he would rather slit his wrists rather than disgrace his wife. It was his one act of defiance, but it came too late. Korea was no longer a free country as the Japanese occupation was only a few years away. The Japanese occupation officially began in 1910, but in reality, they were already usurping power with the Queen's death. The palace itself was majorly destroyed during the occupation with most of the 200 buildings torn down by the Japanese.
Her murder marked a period of cultural genocide, war crimes and horrors that many Koreans can never forget. While the book Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang, brought to the world's attention the horrors that the Japanese army visited on the people of Nanking, not as much world attention has focused on the plight of Korea during the occupation. Over 5 million Koreans were conscripted into the army while millions more were shipped off to Japan to work as slave laborers or comfort women (sex slaves). And even far worse, Koreans were also used as human experimentation for the Japanese army. At the time, the Japanese viewed Koreans as a sub-species of human. Lower than dogs, was what they were taught in school. To the Japanese of the time, Koreans were not human.
The Japanese government tried its best to destroy Korean culture. Japanese was the only language allowed to be spoken and taught in Korea. Anyone found speaking Korean was severely punished, if not killed. All Koreans were forced to give up their Korean names and legally take on Japanese names. Korean cultural landmarks and public monuments were defaced to extoll the virtues of the Japanese Emperor. Korean history book were confiscated and burned. Priceless Korean artifacts were stolen and shipped to Japan. In one of the terrible ironies of war, more than half of Korea's priceless cultural artifacts are not actually in Korea, but are held in Japanese museum and private collections, the victims of the rape of Korea's culture. Tombs of ancient Korean monarchs were plundered and stolen and now can be found in the private collections of Japanese collectors. In recent years, many private collectors have graciously returned some of Korea's heritage back to Korean museums, but still much more remains in Japanese hands as other so called "collectors" have donated their priceless Korean artifacts to Japanese museums.
One other remaining remnant of the Japanese occupation occurs in many maps that one finds even to this day. Look at a map, and you will see that the body of water between Korea and Japan is still referred to as the Sea of Japan. However, its true name is the East Sea. The Sea of Japan was claimed by the Japanese during its occupation period. To allow it to remain on modern day maps continues to be a terrible reminder to Korea of their dark period of foreign occupation. That's why it was so important for me to include in my map of Korea, the true historical name of the East Sea. Perhaps one day, all history books and maps will once again reestablish its true name.
Note - Please know that none of this is meant as Japan bashing but as a discussion of past historical issues only.