OWL Magazine Korea

Seoul, Presidential Office “Cheong Wa Dae” (Blue House)

After President Yoon Suk-yeol’s election in 2022, Cheong Wa Dae became open to the public. Cheong Wa Dae, originally used as the office and residence of the President of South Korea, also included the Yeong Bin Gwan building, which was initially planned to be open to the public but was partially opened due to occasional government use for diplomatic purposes.

“Utilized as the President’s Office – Cheong Wa Dae”

Cheong Wa Dae is located at 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. Since the Lee Seung-man administration up to the Moon Jae-in administration, Cheong Wa Dae has served as the President’s official office for conducting state affairs and as the President’s residence after work. It also encompasses the Presidential Secretariat and government officials who assist the President, collectively known as the Presidential Office.

Starting from President Yoon Suk-yeol’s term in 2022, only specific areas like Yeong Bin Gwan have been used for meetings, forums, and events. Other areas have been opened to the public, and the official office functions are not being used. The post-opening Cheong Wa Dae is managed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Cheong Wa Dae Management and Utilization Committee.

During President Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration, Cheong Wa Dae was moved to Yongsan. The term “Cheong Wa Dae” is now primarily used to refer to the President’s office, rather than the specific location where the President resides.

“History of Cheong Wa Dae”

Cheong Wa Dae traces its origins to 1948 when former President Lee Seung-man began using the former Governor-General’s residence, which was previously used as a U.S. Military Government headquarters. According to Joseon-era designations, it was known as Gyeongmudae. During the Second Republic, President Yun Bo-seon renamed it Cheong Wa Dae, drawing inspiration from the blue tiles and roof of the main building. This name persisted through the Fifth Republic, spanning the military regime’s downfall and the establishment of the Sixth Republic. It was only during the late tenure of President Roh Tae-woo that a traditional hanok-style main building was constructed, giving it the present appearance.

The President of South Korea not only serves as the head of the executive branch but also commands personnel working at Cheong Wa Dae, assisting the President and overseeing ministers and deputy ministers of the executive branch. Additionally, those dispatched to work at Cheong Wa Dae and return to the executive branch are perceived to have gained valuable experience, often leading to strengthened positions upon their return.

“Buildings in Cheong Wa Dae”

Cheong Wa Dae houses various buildings, from the main building where the President’s office is located to places used for events, forums, and receptions like Yeong Bin Gwan, as well as the President’s residence.

  • Gwanjeo: Various buildings housing the President’s office and more.
  • Yeong Bin Gwan: The oldest modern-style building on the Cheong Wa Dae grounds, completed in December 1978. It serves as a venue for large-scale conferences, hosting foreign dignitaries, as well as cultural performances, banquets, meetings, and more. Built in a modern stone style, it continues to be used by the President’s office.
  • Gwanjeo (Residence): A traditional hanok-style building completed on October 25, 1990. It serves as the living space for the President and their family. It consists of a main building (inner room) for living, an annex (outer room) for receptions, and traditional-style courtyards and auxiliary buildings. Before completion, the second floor of the old main building was used as the President’s residence.
  • Sugungteo (Former Main Building Site): This location, once a garden behind Gyeongbokgung Palace during the Joseon era, was demolished by the Japanese during the period of Japanese rule, who built the Governor-General’s Office in its place. This structure was later used directly as the President’s office and residence, marking the beginning of Cheong Wa Dae. After the new main building and residence were completed, the old main building was demolished in 1993, and the site was restored to its former topography, now known as Sugungteo.
  • Sangchunjae: A building used for informal receptions or unofficial meetings. During the period of Japanese rule, there was a 20-pyeong annex building called “Maehwa Room” here. After the establishment of the Republic of Korea, it was renamed “Sangchunsil” and used until its demolition in December 1977. In March 1978, a wooden hanok-style building was erected, but it was later demolished again. In April 1983, a new traditional hanok-style building was constructed, becoming Cheong Wa Dae’s first traditional hanok.
  • Nokjiwon: A green space often featured in the media on special occasions (especially Children’s Day). It is an outdoor event space with a lawn and large pine tree. While the main Da Jeongwon in front of the main building is used for national events welcoming foreign dignitaries, Nokjiwon is primarily used for more public events. Most events inviting citizens, such as for children, the elderly, and disabled individuals, take place here. In 1995, a concert was held here.
  • Yeomin-gwan: The building where the Presidential Secretariat was located, responsible for handling tasks related to the President.
  • Chunchoo-gwan: Served as Cheong Wa Dae’s press center, allowing access for journalists from various media outlets. The press conference room, often featured in the media, is also located here.
  • Seobyeok-gwan: A building located to the west of the main building, it gained attention in 1997 when the Economic Policy Deliberation Council met here. It became known for hosting important private meetings within Cheong Wa Dae.
  • Sihwamun: The building where the Presidential Security Service carried out its duties.
  • Yeonpungmun: A building where external individuals undergo entry procedures for official business. It includes welfare facilities accessible to external visitors and serves as a space for various national promotional activities.
  • Cheong Wa Dae Sarangchae (Presidential Exhibition Hall): Occupying the site where the Presidential Secretariat General’s Office was located, it opened as an exhibition hall displaying various gifts received by the President from abroad in February 1996.

“Visiting Cheong Wa Dae”

Before Cheong Wa Dae was fully opened during the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, it was possible to apply for a visit through the Cheong Wa Dae website. Free tours were available every Tuesday to Friday and on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, excluding Sundays and public holidays.

Since Cheong Wa Dae was relocated to Yongsan on May 10, 2022, it has been fully open to the public. Currently, after making a reservation for a Cheong Wa Dae tour online, you can visit. During the initial opening, many people rushed to visit, making it challenging to tour. However, now that many people have already toured Cheong Wa Dae, it’s easier to make reservations online.

“Cheong Wa Dae Tour in June 2023”

In June 2023, I had the opportunity to visit Cheong Wa Dae for the first time. Despite being geographically close, I hadn’t considered visiting deliberately. However, this time, I was able to visit Cheong Wa Dae with Hong Kong HKCT students. Since the weather was scorching hot in June, it was challenging to spend time outdoors, so I spent most of my time indoors in the main building.

There happened to be an event with a traditional performance, which added more diverse content to the visit. Unfortunately, due to the intense heat, I couldn’t fully enjoy it, which left me feeling a bit disappointed. I think it would be a good idea to visit again after the summer, when the weather is cooler.

“Seoul Jongno, Cheong Wa Dae”

  • Address: 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
  • Opening Hours: (March-November) 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Last Entry: 5:30 PM) (December-February) 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (Last Entry: 5:00 PM)
  • Website: https://www.opencheongwadae.kr