Seoul Experiences: Hyochang Park and Kim Koo Museum and Library (효창공원 & 백범김구 기념관)

On first glance, the unassuming Hyochang Park appears as any other park but it's one that holds but is steeped in rich history.

Located just by the campus of Sookmyung Women's University, this park covers around 122,245 square meters and is unfortunately overlooked by both visitors and locals alike.

Its beginnings is actually not as a park but actually as a royal cemetery called Hyochangwon holding a number of Joseon Dynasty era prince, princess, and royal concubines. Unfortunately, this was yet another royal and/or religious/cultural site that was desecrated during the Japanese colonial period when those in charge decided they would upend the tombs, move them elsewhere (to present day Seooreung Tombs) and then redevelop what was once meant to be the final resting place for some, as a public park which it has remained since.

Today, its many trails that winds over forested slopes makes it a nice and peaceful respite from urban life.Hyochang Park, however, is no regular park as it serves as an important homage to some of Korea's greatest independence fighters including the tomb and museum of the great patriot Kim Koo.

Akin to what Nelson Mandela or Frederick Douglas represented for the struggles of humanity in their respective contexts, Kim Koo is also largely considered the "father" of Korea's independence movement from the Japanese. 

I was actually stunned to know that his tomb sat right in the heart of Hyochang Park but I was even more surprised when I saw that my fellow Korean friends I was with didn't even know Kim Koo's resting place was here (they assumed it was located in the National Cemetery). 

Just next to Mr. Kim's final resting place is a free and well done museum and library that sheds light on his fascinating and illustrious life which took him all over Korea and into China as well.

Almost immediately upon entering the museum and library is a great hall that pays respect to Kim Koo including a quote from him on his wishes for Korea, not as a powerful aggressor nation, but as a beautiful and culture-rich nation. 

The museum is well laid out that offers a pretty thorough look at his life in full with many pictures, displays, and artifacts. Even his blood splattered white hanbok he wore when he died from an assassination attempt is held here.

The footnote version of this important man's life is as follows:

Continuing on from the Kim Koo Museum one comes upon the Uiyeolsa Shrine. Kim Koo actually served as the president of the provisional government of Korea that was established in Shanghai during Korea's struggle for independence and the Uiyeolsa Shrine pays respect to him and six other leaders of this government during then with their portraits hung on the small but peaceful shrine.

Continuing on, one comes across four more tombs. These four are tombs of key martyrs who were involved in the movement and died in their struggle.

Though the sign says there are three tombs one will see four. The reason being that the fourth one (the furthest on the left) is the one for the legendary An Jung Geun who successfully assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the then Resident-General of Korea but who paid the price with his life and whose body and its whereabouts, to this day, has not been divulged by the Japanese government. The space is meant to serve as the final resting place for patriot An when his remains are returned/found.

It's rather unfortunate that these and other leaders, martyrs, and important figures of the independence struggle have largely been relegated to footnotes in modern Korean history. The personal sacrifices they made- many having given up their lives- for the sake of their country is deeply noble and one can't help but be moved as he or she uncovers the high costs that were made.

It's rather unusual that such a peaceful park contains within it the final resting places of such important individuals but perhaps there's a poignant reflection of present day Korean society in the fact that such an unassuming location is where these respect-deserving figures have been laid to rest in the heart of bustling, modern, metropolitan Seoul

177-18, Hyochangwon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 용산구 효창원로 177-18 (효창동) 일대

Admission Fee:

Phone number:

Kim Koo Museum and Library-

Getting there:
From Exit 1 of Hyochang Park Station, walk north about 400 meters and you'll see the entrance just past the Hyochang Stadium.