S. Korea Blue House opens to public for 1st time in 74 years

May 17, 2022, 8:29 AM | Updated: May 18, 2022, 7:29 pm
People visit the Blue House, the former presidential palace, in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 10...

People visit the Blue House, the former presidential palace, in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. For most South Koreans, the former presidential palace in Seoul was as shrouded in mystery as the buildings in their secretive rival North Korea. That’s now changed recently as thousands have been allowed a look inside for the first time in 74 years.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL (AP) — For many South Koreans, the former presidential palace in Seoul was a little-visited, heavily secured mountainside landmark. That’s now changed as thousands have been allowed a look inside for the first time in 74 years.

As one of his first acts, the new South Korean leader has moved the presidential offices from the Blue House, named after its distinctive blue roof tiles, and opened its gates to the public, allowing a maximum of 39,000 people a day to visit.

The normally serious compound has been transformed into something like a fair, with excited crowds looking around and standing in long queues.

“I feel grateful that the Blue House has opened to the public,” 61-year-old office worker Lee Sang Woon said recently during a tour with his family. “I am really happy to be here.”

The Blue House has gone through multiple transformations over the years. Once the site of a royal garden, the Japanese built the official residence for their governors-general there during Tokyo’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. After Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945, the U.S. military commander occupied the place until it became South Korea’s official presidential office and residence upon the country’s foundation in 1948.

The Blue House opening is part of new South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s pledge to abandon the palace and establish his offices at the Defense Ministry compound in the Yongsan district, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.

Yoon said he chose the Defense Ministry compound because it’s already equipped with security-related command facilities. He said he aims to build something similar to the White House in Washington that would let citizens have a closer look at the building over a fence. Yoon said the new offices will allow for better communication with the public.

His relocation plans, however, have faced complaints that they were rushed and unrealistic. Critics say a hasty movement of top government offices could undermine national security by concentrating too much power in one place, cost too much and violate the property rights of people living in the area.

His predecessor, Moon Jae-in, also expressed worries that Yoon made his decision before hearing enough public opinion.

When Moon took office in 2017, he also pledged to move out in a bid to distance himself from his disgraced, jailed predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who grew up there as the daughter of a dictator. Moon eventually abandoned his plan, and Park was pardoned late last year.

Yoon, however, started his first day earlier this month as president in Yongsan, and the ex-presidential office was opened to the public that same day.

Choi Jun Chae, 60, who runs a mill at a traditional market near the Blue House, was sorry to see the presidential office leave his neighborhood but also hopeful that the relocation would boost local businesses by bringing in more tourists.

“Under the (former President) Lee Myung-bak administration, there were lots of protests … so it was really hard to commute to this area. Cars couldn’t move, so I had to walk,” Choi said.

Thousands of people have gathered near the Blue House in the past for mass rallies and marches. Nearby residents said they suffered from noise and traffic congestion.

“I hope that protests decrease and more people visit the area,” Yoo Sung-jong, head of a popular bakery in the neighborhood, said. “But (the president) was here for a long time, so it is a bit sad too.”

While some people in the new presidential neighborhood expect an improvement because of the new offices, there are also worries.

“As for traffic issues, I can already see more people visiting here. It will be very crowded and complicated at first, but I think it will gradually get better,” said Kim Jung-taek, a gallery owner near the new presidential offices.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

People look at the flooded Windsor Bridge at Windsor on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Factors behind Sydney’s recent flood emergecies

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Parts of Australia’s largest city have been inundated by four major floods since March last year, leaving weary victims questioning how many times they can rebuild. The latest disaster follows Sydney’s wettest-ever start to a year with dams overflowing and a sodden landscape incapable of absorbing more rain that must instead […]
23 hours ago
A worker wearing a protective suit swabs a woman's throat for a COVID-19 test at a coronavirus test...
Associated Press

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing

BEIJING (AP) — Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macao and other Chinese cities. Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Cynthia Moreno, 32, hangs a sign across the street from an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enfo...
Associated Press

Appeals arguments set on immigrants brought to US as kids

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Immigrant advocates head to a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Wednesday in hopes of saving an Obama-era program that prevents the deportation of thousands of people brought into the U.S. as children. A federal judge in Texas last year declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal — […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A vender waits for customers at a vegetable market place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, June...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka’s crisis rings alarm for other troubled economies

BANGKOK (AP) — Sri Lanka is desperate for help with weathering its worst crisis in recent memory. Its schools are closed for lack of fuel to get kids and teachers to classrooms. Its effort to arrange a bailout from the International Monetary Fund has been hindered by the severity of its financial crisis, its prime […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, June ...
Associated Press

G-20 meeting may lead to wider divisions over war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign ministers from the world’s largest nations are looking to address the war in Ukraine and its impact on global energy and food security when they meet in Indonesia this week. Yet instead of providing unity, the talks may well exacerbate existing divides over the Ukraine conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Antony […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Rioters face off with police at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. A growing n...
Associated Press

Judges keeping Capitol riot trials in DC amid bias claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — For some of the Washington, D.C., residents who reported for jury duty last month, a pro-Trump mob’s assault on the U.S. Capitol felt like a personal attack. Ahead of a trial for a Michigan man charged in the riot, one prospective juror said a police officer injured during the melee is a […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
S. Korea Blue House opens to public for 1st time in 74 years