During the first snowstorm of the year, my friend and I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace in the centre of Seoul. I don’t tend to enjoy old palaces: I can’t detach the gaudy luxury from the knowledge that these were the centres of power for the elite, where wars were planned, business contracts were signed and concubines trained. But there was still a vicarious thrill of knowing the shock that the kings would have felt at the commoners traipsing through their spaces.
Despite the cold, there were old men and women ceaselessly sweeping the brickwork with straw brooms. I was impressed at their resilience, though I thought it harkened back a little too closely to the palace’s original workings.