But Joe McPherson, creator of ZenKimchi, has invested much of his time--years, in fact--into delving into the more sinister stories of the city's past.
He tells these captivating stories on his Dark Side of Seoul Tour, a captivating walk through Korea's historical neighborhoods. The tour is jam packed with scary tales that have never made the pages of guidebooks or travel brochures and are incredibly fascinating.
In the spirit of Halloween, he shares with Seoul Searching readers the story of The Tomb Bridge.
Ever walked along the Cheonggyechon with your lover?
Then perhaps you will enjoy this little love story about the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, Yi Seong-gye, and his second queen, Sindeok.
Back then, the king had two queens, a queen from Jeonju–the Jeonju Queen–and a queen from Seoul–the Seoul Queen. Sindeok was the latter. She and the king were very much in love.
There were a few who were not so fond of her, however. Among them were the sons of the Jeonju Queen. Their disdain for her was the result of Sindeok promoting her own sons to be ahead of them in line for the throne.
Unfortunately, Queen Sindeok one day became ill and soon thereafter passed away. The king was so heartbroken that he built an elaborate tomb for her on palace grounds, around where the British embassy now stands. This was highly unusual for the time.
As the king was in mourning, his prime minister hatched a plot with Sindeok’s sons to kill the sons of the Jeonju Queen. The fifth son of the Jeonju Queen caught wind of this and convinced his brothers to lead a preemptive strike. They killed Sindeok’s sons.
The king was so horrified that he abdicated the throne and gave it to the oldest heir of the Jeonju Queen. The fifth son, who was the ambitious and crafty one, somehow convinced his older brother to let him have the throne.
After he took over the throne, a flood hit Seoul, washing out Gwangtonggyo Bridge on the Cheonggyecheon Stream. This man hated Queen Sindeok so much that one of his first acts as king was to dismantle her tomb and use the stones, placed upside-down (indicating serious blasphemy), to rebuild it so that people would always walk on top of her grave.
To this day, tourists, couples and families walk over it without ever knowing its grim history.
There are, in fact, two plaques located there that tell the story, but describe Sindeok as a concubine rather than a queen. Nevertheless, these often go unread, like many of Seoul's historical sites.
For more interesting stories about the darker side of Korean history, click here. Also, be sure to reserve a spot on the Dark Side of Seoul, which currently runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings throughout October.
Story submitted to Seoul Searching by Joe McPherson. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.