Spend a Day with King Sejong on His Birthday

Date May 14, 2024


The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Minister YU In Chon, MCST) held the “A Day with King Sejong” event at Gyeongbokgung Palace and Sejong Center on May 14 and 15 to commemorate the 627th birthday of King Sejong (May 15). On the 14th, Minister YU attended the “Sejong Yi Do () Birthday Ceremony (haryeyeon)” at the Sujeongjeon area in Gyeongbokgung Palace to celebrate the great king’s birthday.


Sejong was the first king of Joseon to be enthroned after the founding of Gyeongbokgung Palace. He lived at the palace for 16 of his 32 years of reign. He read books and engaged scholars in intense discussions at Jiphyeonjeon Hall. In light of this history, on May 14 this year, the event’s first day, the “Sejong Yi Do Birthday Ceremony” was held in the Sujeongjeon area, where Jiphyeonjeon used to be located. The ceremony followed the examples of Gilrye (吉禮) from Sejongsilrok Oryeui (Annals of King Sejong, Book on the Five Rites) to celebrate the king’s major achievements with special performances and activity programs.


Premiere of the court music “Chihwapyeong” and “Chwipunghyeong” restored with AI

Various activities around Yeongchumun, Sujeongjeon, and Gyeonghoeru to remember the great achievements of King Sejong


“King Sejong Birthday Ceremony” opened with a Daechwita music performance in front of Sujeongjeon, Gyeongbokgung Palace at 2p.m. The National Gugak Center’s Court Music Orchestra and Dance Theater performed “Haeryeong,” a piece of majestic court music, and royal court dances “Yeominrak” and “Bongraeui.” In particular, the National Gugak Center used artificial intelligence (AI) to restore “Chihwapyeong” (致和平) and “Chwipunghyeong” (), two missing pieces in the traditional court music created during the reign of King Sejong, and added meaning by premiering them on the king’s birthday. [1]


In addition, the words left by King Sejong are brought to life through a fine calligraphy performance to showcase the excellence of Hangul, a writing system created by King Sejong, and reflected on the meaning of “Saengsaengjirak (生生之樂, a world where people enjoy their lives while working for their living),” an ideal pursued by King Sejong. The performance is followed by musical performances by a Korean folk singer. King Sejong believed that there was no better way to change the people’s minds and elevate the nation’s prestige than to change their linguistic materials by encouraging them to read books. The singer conveys the content of the books published by King Sejong, namely, Samganghaengsildo, Hyangyakjipseongbang, and Yongbieocheonga. The birthday celebration closes with a grand finale, a musical depicting the life of King Sejong and praising his achievements.[2]


From 12:30 p.m. on May 14, an exhibition and activity titled “Sejong in a Day” was held around Yeongchumun Gates, Sujeongjeon Hall, and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion in Gyeongbokgung Palace for visitors who register for the program in advance. Visitors received a hopae (a form of ID card used in Joseon) at the entrance to Yeongchumun Gate and experienced traveling back in time to the years of King Sejong’s reign and King Sejong’s achievements from his birth to his reign. Visitors were able to experience how it must have felt to be a king by sitting on the life-sized throne model and learn about the achievements of King Sejong, watching videos that allow you to feel his fierceness and efforts. They learned more about the king’s life as they make hyangnang (scent sachets) based on the prescriptions from Hyangyakjibseongbang and solved quizzes about King Sejong (Sejong Examination).


An academic conference on May 15 reexamined King Sejong’s Hunminjeongeum, and his academic achievements, music, education, etc.

On May 15, the second day of the event, an academic conference was held at Sejong Center (Circle Hall) under the theme “The World that Sejong dreamed of, Told Through Books.” In the morning, presentations were given on King Sejong’s Hunminjeongeum and his achievements in academics, music, and education. The afternoon session shed new light on “Gapinja,” Korea’s top-class metal types used during the reign of King Sejong, and Samganghaengsildo, a book published to improve people’s awareness.


To commemorate the birthday of King Sejong, various events are scheduled across the country. The National Hangeul Museum launched the “Join King Sejong Today!” event, and the National Institute of the Korean Language held the “2024 Foreigner Dictation Contest” at the National Folk Museum. Sejong Special Self-Governing City held an event commemorating the birth of the king at Hangeul Love Street in Hansol-dong, and Daejeon Metropolitan City ran an outreach education program on Hangeul and King Sejong for children and teenagers. The king’s birth is also celebrated overseas. Each of the 248 King Sejong Institutes in 85 countries worldwide plans to hold the “2024 King Sejong Institute Korean Speaking and Writing Contest” starting on May 15.[3]


Minister YU In Chon said, “Through these commemorative events, we hope to deeply reflect on and put into practice Saengsaengjirak, an ideal that King Sejong pursued for the joy of living and letting live.” He added, “The MCST honors the great achievements of King Sejong. To inherit his spirit and contribute to the development of national culture, the Ministry will move the Sejong Culture Awards event from Hangul Week to King Sejong’s birthday starting next year. I hope that King Sejong’s creative spirit is not confined to the past but lives on in the present, shedding light on the future.”


[1]  “Chihwapyeong” and “Chwipunghyeong” exist only in the Jeongganbo scores from the 15th century. The center restored them by applying the transformation process of the dance “Yeominrak.” A deep neural network–based model was used to learn the evolution of the dance, and optical recognition technology was used to generate flute melodies based on the Jeongganbo scores. Based on this melody, melodies for daegeum, haegeum, ajaeng, gayageum, and geomungo were created.

[2] Saengsaengjirak: Enjoying Life While Working for a Living

[3] The celebration includes a pre-event for a dictation contest open to the entire nation, the “National Dictation Contest.” The final round of the contest will be held during the Hangeul Week (October 4–10) after regional rounds in the second half of the year.