SEOUL-- Cheong Wa Dae will open to the public on incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol's inauguration day Tuesday as the sprawling compound ended its 74-year-old role as the site for the presidential office and residence in line with Yoon's pledge to relocate the top office.
With online reservations, visitors will be able to look around the compound, including the Nokjiwon garden and the state guest house of Yeongbin-gwan, from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and then from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day after that, according to the officials of the Cheong Wa Dae relocation task force.
The inside of Cheong Wa Dae buildings, however, will be off-limits until after all sensitive equipment and documents are carried out.
Visits will be limited to 6,500 people per two-hour time slot and 39,000 per day.
The tour program was launched in accordance with Yoon's election promise to relocate the presidential office out of Cheong Wa Dae and give the compound back to the public. He said the move would help him connect better with the people as Cheong Wa Dae had become "a symbol of imperial power."
On Tuesday, Yoon will start his first day as president at the new presidential office, which is being set up in previously the defense ministry building in Seoul's Yongsan district, several kilometers away from Cheong Wa Dae.
The defense ministry has moved to the nearby building used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Cheong Wa Dae, situated at the foot of Mount Bukak behind the Gyeongbok Palace, the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), has been the venue of the presidential office and residence for the past 74 years after the South Korean government was established in 1948.
The compound, which covers about 250,000 square meters, or 62 acres, is 3.4 times larger than the White House. The complex, also known as the Blue House, consists of the main office building, presidential residence, state reception house, press hall and secretariat buildings, among others.
Due to its secluded location and the substantial distances between the offices of the president and secretaries and the press, Cheong Wa Dae has long been criticized as a legacy of "imperial presidency."
The history of the Cheong Wa Dae site spans over a thousand years, as it was home to royal palace halls during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). It was then part of the rear garden for Gyeongbok Palace during the Joseon Dynasty.
During the Japanese colonial period from 1910 to 1945, the Japanese governor-general's official residence was located there, while part of the Gyeongbok Palace grounds were used for the colonial government.
With the establishment of the South Korean government in 1948, then President Rhee Syngman began to use the site as the presidential office and residence after naming it "Gyeong Mu Dae."
It was renamed Cheong Wa Dae in 1960 after the inauguration of President Yun Bo-sun. For the next 62 years, Cheong Wa Dae has been used as a word that symbolizes the supreme power.
"The symbol of power that has been closed for over 600 years, including 500 years under the Joseon Dynasty and 74 years following the foundation of the Republic of Korea -- that space will return to the bosom of the people," Rep. Yoon Han-hong, the chief of the relocation task force, had said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency