Deoksugung Wall Path

Jean is an international student attending USC. She grew up in Korean and moved to the United States when she was 12.



“There’s this Korean saying “We walked the Deoksugung Wall path together”… it’s basically slang for breaking up.. In downtown Seoul there’s this  huge palace called Deoksugung. It’s got this huge wall surrounding it, and they say that if a couple walks down the path along the wall their relationship is basically doomed to fail. It’s not just a thing in Seoul though, people all over Korea say it. It doesn’t really make any sense, but it’s just something people say.”



A break-up in many ways is like a long walk or a journey. That the saying specifically refers to the Deoksugung Wall path in Seoul is interesting – the path is adjacent to a large secure wall that surrounds a palace inside. The wall could represent some sort of impasse that the couple wasn’t able to overcome. Had they been able to scale the wall (amend whatever issues they had), they would have reached the palace and all the riches inside (remained a couple and lived happily together). Instead they remain outside the wall and are forced to walk the path. Generally, a wall built to guard a palace is extremely well-fortified. This saying could also represent that you will walk along that path many times (go through many break-ups) before finally reaching the palace (finding the right person).

Apparently, however, the basis for this saying is more historical than metaphorical. Upon doing some research about the phrase when I was struggling to understand the connection between the literal meaning and the slang connotation, I found that Seol’s Family Court – where people would go to get divorced – for many years was located at the end of this path. Couples would walk down the Deoksugung Wall path a married couple, and return divorced.

The context that my research provided made the usage of the phrase to mean ‘break-up’ perfectly understandable. Jean – most likely along with plenty of other Koreans – admittedly uses the phrase without knowing why it means what Korean culture uses it to mean. This exemplifies the way that folk speech can enter into the common vernacular and be passed down through generations without a full understanding of the actual meaning, yet remains in use because “it’s just something people say.”