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[Herald Review] Tales, music and light at Cheong Wa Dae evening tour

Visitors step outside the Main Office Building of Cheong Wa Dae during a press event held on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
Visitors step outside the Main Office Building of Cheong Wa Dae during a press event held on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
Guards slowly opened the gates to welcome visitors to Cheong Wa Dae as dusk fell.

On Tuesday evening, a day before the official opening of the Cheong Wa Dae nighttime tour, a press event was held with some 50 reporters and public honorary promotion ambassadors in attendance.

The 90-minute tour was led by Shim Yong-hwan, a historian, writer and professor, who gave a brief overview of the buildings and facilities. He also provided fun facts and tidbits about former presidents who worked and lived in the compound, such as their favorite dishes or where they liked to stroll around in the evenings with the first lady.

“I think we, as foreigners, are always curious to see what is representative of Korea,” Diana Martinez, an art content creator from Paraguay, told The Korea Herald. “I’m looking forward to learning different historical aspects of Korea at a glance in Cheong Wa Dae, from how it had been part of Gyeongbokgung to its current ties with the nation’s politics.”

The tour went through five locations -- the Main Office Building, Sugungteo, Official Residence, Sangchunjae and Nokjiwon.

Stepping into the main building, the visitors were asked to wear shoe covers. The aesthetic details of the building were explained, along with information on some of the major art pieces and furniture collected by former presidents. 

A painting by artist Jeon Hyuk-rim, which portrays the South Gyeongsang city of Tongyeong, collected by former President Roh Moo-hyun, is on display at Cheong Wa Dae’s main building. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
A painting by artist Jeon Hyuk-rim, which portrays the South Gyeongsang city of Tongyeong, collected by former President Roh Moo-hyun, is on display at Cheong Wa Dae’s main building. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
The pillars of Cheong Wa Dae‘s Main Office Building feature a mix of traditional designs on their foundation and modern designs on the upper part. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
The pillars of Cheong Wa Dae‘s Main Office Building feature a mix of traditional designs on their foundation and modern designs on the upper part. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
Potraits of former first ladies are hung on a wall at the Main Office Building’s Mugunghwa Room. (Yonhap)
Potraits of former first ladies are hung on a wall at the Main Office Building’s Mugunghwa Room. (Yonhap)
Walking to Sugungteo, the Office of Palace Guards during the Joseon period, Shim briefly explained the history of the compound before it became the Cheong Wa Dae of today.

Lorena Jimenez, a model and influencer based in Seoul, suggested that studies be done to explore the rich history of the place. “All history should not be forgotten, no matter how long ago it happened. I think Cheong Wa Dae can preserve its rich history, while also expanding it with new stories happening today,” she said.

Lee, a kindergarten school teacher in her 40s, talked about how children can learn history by visiting the site as is. “Kindergarteners directly absorb and learn from what they see, so I hope to show my class around Cheong Wa Dae and teach them the relevant history.”

A fusion gugak performance is held at the Official Residence garden on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
A fusion gugak performance is held at the Official Residence garden on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
In front of the Official Residence, a fusion gugak duo of gayageum and cello gave a performance while traditional tea was served cold.

At Sangchunjae, a traditional hanok for receiving guests and holding informal meetings, the interior was open to the public for the first time. It is kept restricted to visitors in order to protect the ondol room and wooden furniture from damage. 
The interior of Sangchunjae, a traditional hanok where guests were received, is open to the public for the first time on Tuesday evening (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
The interior of Sangchunjae, a traditional hanok where guests were received, is open to the public for the first time on Tuesday evening (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Participants view a laser light show at Nokjiwon, Cheong Wa Dae‘s largest garden. (Yonhap)
Participants view a laser light show at Nokjiwon, Cheong Wa Dae‘s largest garden. (Yonhap)
Some 120 species of plants grow in Nokjiwon, the last stop of the tour. Gleaming laser lights flashed through the trees, but the artificial light show did not blend in well with the surrounding natural environment, which would have been beautiful to view as is. It was more of a distraction, and gave a theme park atmosphere to the place.

If you are one of the 1,200 selected through lottery from among 55,132 people who applied for the night tours that operate through Aug.1, be sure to bring insect repellant and wear comfortable shoes.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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