The National Museum of Korea is the flagship museum of Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. It was first established in 1945. In October 2005, the museum opened in a new building in Yongsan Family Park in Seoul, South Korea. The museum contains over 150,000 pieces in its collection with 11,000 on display at one time. It claims to be the largest museum in Asia and the sixth-largest museum in the world in terms of floor space, covering 307,227 square feet.
Measures to protect the treasures inside the museum included designing a building built to withstand a magnitude 6.0 Richter Scale earthquake. The display cases for artifacts are equipped with seismic-protective platforms which absorb shocks and trembles. There is also an imported natural lighting system which utilizes sunlight instead of artificial lights and an air purification system designed to protect the art and artifacts of the museum. The museum is also made from fire resistant materials.
To design the new building, the Korean government held an international competition open to architects around the world to submit a proposal for the new building. There were over 854 entries from 59 countries. The winning design was inspired by the idea of a traditional Korean fortress and was submitted by Chang-Il Kim of Junglim Architects & Engineers Ltd.
The building is oblong, like a Korean fortress, at 404 meters in length. It is six stories in height and is surrounded by indigenous plants and gardens. It is served by Ichon Station on Line 4 and the Yongsan-Deokso Line on the Seoul Subway.
The museum is divided into three floors. Symbolically, the left of the museum is supposed to represent the past while the right side of the museum represents the future.
The first floor contains the Archaeological Gallery which contain approximately 4,500 artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Balhae era. The ten exhibition rooms in the gallery are the Paleolithic Room, Neolithic Room, Bronze Age & Early Iron Age Room, Proto Three Kingdoms Room, Goguryeo Room, Baekje Room, Gaya Room, Silla Room, Unified Silla Room, and Balhae Room. Information about and artifacts from important prehistoric sites and settlements such the Bangudae Petroglyphs and Songgung-ni are found in the Neolithic and Bronze Age Rooms.
Also on the first floor is the Historical Gallery which contains recorded and historical documents such as Hangul inscriptions, maps, and other valuable documents. The nine rooms of the gallery are the Hangeul Room, Prints Room, Inscriptions Room, Documents Room, Map Room, King and His Reign Room, Socio-economic Life Room, Traditional Thoughts Room, and Foreign Relations Room.
The second floor contains the Fine Arts Gallery I and the Donation Gallery. The Fine Arts Gallery I contains 890 pieces of art in four rooms that explore the traditional and religious arts of Korea in line and color. The rooms are the Painting Room, Calligraphy Room, Buddhist Paintings Room, and Wooden Craft Room.
The Donation Gallery holds 1000 pieces of art from a wide variety of cultures donated from the private collections of collectors. The rooms are the Lee Hong-kun Collection Room, Other Collections Room, Kim Chong-hak Collection Room, Yu Kang-yul Collection Room, Park Young-sook Collection Room, Choi Young-do Collection Room, Park Byong-rae Collection Room, Yoo Chang-jong Collection Room, Kaneko Kazushige Collection Room, Hachiuma Tadasu Collection Room, and Luchi Isao Collection Room.
The third floor contains the Fine Arts Gallery II and contains 630 pieces that represent Korean Buddhist sculpture and craftwork. Highlights of the gallery include Goryeo Celadon wares and National Treasure of Korea No. 83, the world-renowned Bangasayusang (or meditating Maiterya). The five rooms of the gallery are the Metal Arts Room, Celadon Room, Buncheong Ware Room, White Porcelain Room, and Buddhist Sculpture Room.
Finally, also on the third floor, is the Asian Arts Gallery which contains 970 pieces which explores the similarities and divergences of Asian Art and the confluence of Asian and Western art via the Silk Road. The six rooms are the Indonesian Art Room, Central Asian Art Room, Chinese Art Room, Relics from Sinan Seabed Room, Nangnang Remains Room, and Japanese Art Room.
The grounds of the museum contain parks, gardens of indigenous plants, waterfalls and pools, a collection of pagodas and other outdoor Korean art.