The Government of the Republic of Korea decided to create a National Museum, in Seoul, consecrated to the five thousand year cultural and historical heritage of all the Korean people. An international architectural competition, open to architects of the entire world, was launched in December 1994, to select the design for this prestigious building. Unprecedented in Korea, this procedure, organised in conformity with the UNESCO/UIA Recommendation concerning international competitions in architecture and town planning, received the approval of the International Union of Architects (UIA).

This competition, international, open and anonymous was run in two phases: ideas and basic plan competitions. The programme, which was established by the Korean Institute of Architects (KIA), concerned the design of a museum complex, of a total surface of 108 800 m2 set in the park of the Yong San family. It included four departments devoted respectively to: history, archaeology, arts and crafts, East Asian Arts.

The competition met with wide success amongst the architects of the world. 854 registrations from 59 countries were registered by the organisers and 341 projects were submitted. The competitors, amongst whom were many well known professionals, represented 46 countries, including Korea (78), France (26), Italy (23), United States of America (19), Switzerland (16), United Kingdom (18), Japan (19), Germany (15), Hong Kong (11) and Mexico (17) etc.