South Korea's hottest new venue is where presidents used to meet

The former presidential palace, known as The Blue House, has been reinvented as an events venue and visitor attraction.

K-pop superstar Rain has staged a concert at The Blue House while scholars are calling for the former presidential palace to be converted into a cultural festival or special events venue.
K-pop superstar Rain has staged a concert at The Blue House while scholars are calling for the former presidential palace to be converted into a cultural festival or special events venue. Photo Credit: Seoul Tourism Organization

In Seoul, the hottest new venue is where the country's leaders used to work and live.

The country's former presidential palace, Cheong Wa Dae, also known as the Blue House because of its striking tiled roof, has opened to the public on 10 May.

The State Guest House within the compound was used to host official presidential functions in the past, such as banquets for visiting heads of state, prime ministers or presidents of foreign countries, and social gatherings of up to 100 people.

South Korea's thriving K-pop industry immediately saw its potential as an events venue, with superstar Rain staging a solo concert in June. 

Scholars are already calling for the Blue House compund's conversion into, among others, a park, museum, library, concert hall, cultural festivals or special events venue.

Meantime, the sprawling 250,000 sqm compound has also turned into the capital's newest tourist attraction with more than 770,000 visitors in a month.

Visitor attractions at the Blue House include the main office building, the official residence inside a hanok (Korean traditional house), the state guest house, and a garden with 120 species of trees, many planted by former presidents. Approximately 150,000 blue tiles comprise the roof of the current main office building, which served as a reception hall for foreign diplomats and was designed to look like a Joseon dynasty palace and completed in 1991. 

Situated at the foot of Mount Bugak, the Blue House site was once the private rear garden of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) kings who lived in the royal palace of Gyeongbokgung. The blue-roofed official residence was added during the Japanese colonial era in 1939, then from 1948 onwards, post-independence South Korean presidents made it their home.

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol, meanwhile, has shifted his office to Yongsan.



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