This Renaissance style white building is the former Russian Legation building. This building, similar to an embassy, once housed offices of diplomats. A legation is lower in status of that of an embassy. The structure was built in 1890 during the 27th year of the reign of King Gojong. The structure was designed by A. J. Scredin Sabatine, a Swiss-Russian architect.
A secret passageway found in the basement of the tower was once connected to nearby Deoksugung Palace, which was known then as Gyeongungung.
In February 1896, King Gojong, along with his crown prince, secretly fled to this location from Gyeongbokgung Palace. They worried of a coup d’état after the murder of Empress Myeongseong, the wife of the king. From here, the two controlled the Korean government until February 20, 1897. During this period, many political changes occurred in part due to international influences which may have helped contributed to the declaration of the Korean Empire in 1897.
A two story main building once existed at this location but was destroyed during the Korean War (1950-1953). The three story white tower seen today was once connected to the main building on the first floor. The second floor only featured a simple window.
The tower today is easily missed by most tourists even though it is located in central Seoul near City Hall, Seoul Plaza, and Deoksugung. The remains of the Former Russian Legation are a unique and interesting addition to the history and architectural style of Seoul.