Cheongwadae (청와대) or more famously known as the Blue House is the place where the president of Korea lives and works. Cheongwadae is, also, the place where all official meetings, receptions for state guests and diplomatic events take place.
LOCATION AND HISTORY
The Blue House is located in the heart of Seoul just behind the well-known Gyeongbokgung palace. If you have ever visited Gyeongbokgung, you are probably aware how big the whole area is. But, in fact Gyeongbokgung has been stretching much further beyond today’s limits. Gyeongbokgung had been built during Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) and destroyed in the late 16th century. When it was rebuilt in the mid-19th century, its scale was much smaller than what it used to be. And today’s Blue House is built on the ground that once was part of the rear garden for Gyeongbokgung.
VISITING BLUE HOUSE
Is it possible to visit the Blue House? Actually, civilians are not permitted to enter the buildings, but you can get a closer look of the area. The government organizes free tours of Cheongwadae and the surrounding area for Koreans and foreigners.
What the tour includes?
The actual tour covers areas such as Nokjiwon Garden, the old building grounds, the Main Building and the State Guest House. If you want to take part in the tour, you must make an online reservation at least 3 weeks in advance. The tour is entirely in Korean, therefore if you are non-Korean speakers, it is better to read information beforehand.
Nokjiwon garden is the first site to see on this tour. The garden covers an area of 3, 300 m2 and is populated by 120 different tree species planted by former Presidents. located in the center of the garden, the umbrella pine tree is more than 160 years old and about 17m tall. This tree is the symbol of Nokjiwon garden.
The offices of the Presidential Secretariat are collectively called Yeomingwan and occupy three buildings. The name comes from the phrase Yeomin gorak which means “to share the people’s hardships and joys” and promises the Government will remain close to people through good and bad times.
Chunchugwan is the Blue House’s press center, which can accommodate around 300 international and domestic journalists. And the name “Chunchugwan” originates from the Chinese classic and suggests that the historical record will be strictly kept.
MAIN OFFICE BUILDING
As mentioned earlier the presidential residence is known as “the Blue House”, but why? The name comes from the blue-tiled roof of the main building which is the representing image of Cheongwadae. Completed in 1991, it consists of a two-story central building flanked by two single-story wings. The architecture of the building represents the Korean palace architectural style which is based on traditional wood construction methods. And the roof is covered by 150,000 Korean-style blue tiles crafted to last for a century.
The lawn in front of the Main Office Building is called the Grand Garden and is used for outdoor events.
STATE GUEST HOUSE
The State Guest House is the venue for hosting official events that involve foreign guests. The eighteen stone pillars that support the structure, impart a stately appearance. The first floor serves as a reception room while the second floor is a dining area.
The First Family lives in this compound to separate the President’s working and living areas. A signboard over the main entrance of the building reads Insumun which translates as “the Gate of Benevolence and Longevity”.
HOW TO APPLY FOR THE TOUR
You can register through that link: tour.president.go.kr
Be aware that you should make a reservation at least 3 weeks in advance. You can choose your preferable day and time. After registration you will receive a confirmation email whether your application has been approved. You can register only once per month. And in case, of no show there is a possibility that if you register again, your application to not be approved.
On the actual day of the tour you must bring your passport (not ARC) and be at least 10 minutes beforehand at the information booth. You should give them your passport; they check your application and issue a number. The bus ride from the palace to the Blue House last for about 10 minutes. Before entering the place, you go through a security check after which you will receive a small gift.. During the tour taking picture is permitted only at certain sites.
After the tour, you can visit Cheongwadae Sarangchae. Cheongwadae Sarangchae is a comprehensive tourist exhibition center to introduce various tourist spots of Korea. There you can find a lot of interesting information about the Blue House and the history of Korean presidents there. It is worth a visit.
For more information about Cheongwadae Sarangchae and tours here: cwdsarangchae.kr