South Korea’s Blue House, or Cheong Wa Dae, has served as the official residence and office of the president since the government was established in 1948.
Built in 1991 on the grounds of the former Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace, South Korea’s Blue House takes its name from its distinctive roof, which is made up of 150,000 handmade blue tiles. During extensive renovations over the past 74 years, the color of the roof has remained the same.
The house has served as the office of every South Korean president since 1948, but that’s about to change. Newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who won the March 9 election, officially announced on March 20 that he would move the presidential office to a Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan upon his inauguration.
Yoon said his decision was driven by his desire to be a people-oriented president.
“We are looking to leave the Blue House, which was a symbol of absolute power in our history, and return that power to the people,” Yoon’s spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said during a briefing on May 18. March, according to Reuters.
Yoon’s team did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
South Korea’s traditional architectural style, characterized by pitched roofs, is reflected in the design of the Blue House.
South Koreans see the Blue House as a symbol of “unchecked power,” Kim Dong-no, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, told The Wall Street Journal.
Yoon’s political opponents accused him of listening to Fengshui practitioners’ readings and putting their advice ahead of national security.
Fengshui practitioners consider the location of the Blue House to be inauspicious due to the misfortunes of past presidents, Reuters reported. In South Korea’s 25-year democratic history, four out of six presidents have been imprisoned or died by suicide after leaving office.
“People suspect that this decision was prompted by advice from shamans that the location of the Blue House is cursed,” Democratic Party politician Cho Jeong-sik told the South China Morning Post.
In a briefing, the outgoing Moon administration said it believed rushed relocation efforts could “create a security vacuum and confusion” amid growing tensions with the North, according to Reuters.
The move to a military defense complex in Yongsan will cost about 49.6 billion won ($40.1 million), according to figures provided by South Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance at a conference of press, according to Reuters.
The Blue House spans 62 acres and is more than three times the size of the White House.
Among the rooms of the Blue House are a main office building, a presidential residence, a state reception house and a press room.
It has always been the designated place where the President makes official announcements. It is also where state meetings, press conferences and special ceremonies are held.
South Korean citizens also often stage protests on the ground outside the Blue House.
In April 2015, thousands of people marched to the Blue House to protest against the government’s poor response to the Sewol ferry tragedy.
South Korean citizens staged a similar protest near the Blue House in November 2016, calling for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye after a corruption scandal. Park was eventually impeached in 2017 and served nearly five years in prison before being pardoned in December 2021.
In addition to the main buildings, the Blue House also has a pond and a large garden.
Visitors are permitted in certain areas of the Blue House, but only through guided tours.
However, there are plans to reform the visitor policy under President Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration, according to Korea JoongAng Daily. Visitors will now be allowed to roam freely within permitted areas without a guide.
With this change in policy, the Blue House is expected to welcome up to 39,000 people per day, an increase from the 1,500 visitors that guided tours currently welcome.