(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Alexandra Evangelista |
Seoul: An Andy Warhol painting, gifted by former US President Donald Trump to former South Korean President Moon Jae-in, hangs on a wall in a room filled with memorabilia of past presidents at Cheong Wa Dae.
An autographed football, a pair of jogging shoes, a painting, and gardening scissors are also displayed carefully to give visitors a glimpse of the stories and personalities of South Korea's previous leaders.
On the day of my visit,“The Stories of Our Presidents” exhibition is welcoming locals and tourists for the last time before drawing its curtains down.
An Andy Warhol painting, gifted by former US President Donald Trump to former South Korean President Moon Jae-in, exhibited inside Cheong Wa Dae.
Despite this, there is more to uncover in the prominent structure that served as the core of South Korea's political leadership for 74 years.
Cheong Wa Dae, also named 'The Blue House' after the 150,000 blue-hued roof tiles on its main building, was the former presidential office and residence for the first 12 leaders of the country.
A look at distinct blue tiles on the roof of the Main Building.
This was changed on May 10, 2022, when the current South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol made a decision to move the presidential office to the Yongsan District and make Cheong Wa Dae fully open to the public.
What once was an unfrequented mountainside landmark, turned into a hotspot for thousands of locals and tourists curious to set their eyes on the halls and grounds of the prominent location.
Curator at Cheong Wa Dae Management Planning Division, Kim Kwon Jung
Kim Kwon Jung, Curator at Cheong Wa Dae Management Planning Division, confirmed to The Peninsula in Seoul that over 4 million visitors have visited the site since it opened to the public last year. On that bright sunny morning of my visit, visitors of all ages – from young to old – are still vigorously lining up to step inside the Main Building.
The vast expanse of the 250,000-square-metre grounds of Cheong Wa Dae consists of several notable sites including the Main Building, Yeonbingwan (Guest Reception Hall), Presidential Residence, Nokjiwon, and more.
An inside view of the main building.
The Main Building, constructed in 1991 with its blue-tiled roof, stands resolute as Bugaksan offers a picturesque background. The building structure is a blend of old and new, with contemporary designs paired with elements of“Hanok”, or traditional Korean housing style. The two-story Main Building is flanked by two single-storey buildings on both sides. This site in Cheong Wa Dae served as the primary location for cabinet meetings, luncheons, and dinners for prominent officials.
A look at the main gate of the Presidential Residence with a signboard bearing the word“Insumun”.
Just a short walk from the Main Building is the Presidential Residence, where past leaders and first families lived before May 10, 2022. Before entering the main gate of the residence, visitors will come upon a signboard that bears the word“Insumun”, meaning,“Gate Bestowing a Healthy, Virtuous Life to All Who Pass.”
Going downhill from the Presidential Residence, one will be met with an expansive garden called the“Nokjiwon”. Among the vast green space, visitors can easily recognize a 170-year-old pine tree standing tall among the rest of the trees. The garden which was created in 1968 is also home to 120 species of trees including those planted by former presidents.
A view of Nokjiwon.
Apart from these main sites, there several routes one can take when venturing inside Cheong Wa Dae. Families with children may begin the tour from Yeongbingwan to the Main Building followed by Nokjiwon, and end at Chunchugwan. Others who are looking to delve into the place's history and culture may begin from Nokjiwon, Sangchunjae, old Main Building Site, Main Building, and Yeongbingwan.
The distinct blue tiles of Cheong Wa Dae stand out amidst a bustling city.
A year on, Cheong Wa Dae has opened a new chapter for the people to witness first-hand the halls and grounds which bore witness to massive changes made not only on its structures but also in the country. Thus far, the decision to open its doors bears a new promise, to bring Cheong Wa Dae back to the people.
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