(LEAD) Cheong Wa Dae to get face-lift to become tourist landmark

The culture ministry said Monday the former presidential office compound of Cheong Wa Dae, which was opened to public access about a year ago, will be transformed into a multifaceted tourist landmark with historical, cultural and natural value.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism unveiled its basic plan for operating the compound as it was commissioned by the presidential office to manage the compound at the end of last month

Under the plan, Cheong Wa Dae will be given a face-lift to become a dynamic place where visitors can learn about Korean history, and enjoy culture and nature in one place.

It will then be transformed into a tourist landmark in central Seoul, combining rich cultural and historical resources with the nature of Mount Bugak in the surrounding area, according to the ministry.

Cheong Wa Dae had been the presidential office and residence for over seven decades before President Yoon Suk Yeol relocated his office to the former defense ministry building in Yongsan in central Seoul, and opened the former compound to the public in May last year.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), it was used as the rear garden of Gyeongbok Palace, the main royal palace.

Months after the opening, the ministry unveiled a plan to use the compound as an art center with the use of the main office building and Yeongbingwan, the state reception hall, for art exhibitions and concerts being central to the plan.

During a press briefing held at the ministry's office in the central city of Sejong, Yoon Seong-cheon, a ministry official in charge of the Cheong Wa Dae management plan, said there is no change in the ministry's plan for the use of the compound except for Yeongbingwan.

President Yoon originally planned to build a new state guest house near his office that will replace Yeongbingwan, which was used for the official venue for dinners and various cultural events for state guests before he took office. He, however, failed to do so following a controversy over the enormous construction cost.

"We can see Yeongbingwan will continue to be used for its original purpose in this situation," the ministry official said. "I think we will be able to use it for other purposes in the future when the problem is resolved," he added.

To draw more tourists, the government will prepare for various exhibitions, performances and tour programs related to the compound's four key features -- history, culture-arts, cultural assets and trees.

The ministry plans to use 3.6 billion won (US$2.7 million) from its budget to hold art exhibitions and 6.4 billion won for cultural performances at Cheong Wa Dae this year.

There will also be a special exhibition highlighting the life and philosophy of the former presidents in the main building, the ministry said.

Visitors will be able to experience the essence of Korean culture all year round through a variety of performances hosted in the outdoor facilities.

In May, when the country marks the first anniversary of the opening of the compound, there will be performances of traditional Korean music, dance, creative Korean opera and Western classical music organized by national art troupes.

The ministry will announce details of the programs at the end of this month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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