Who still calls the Blue House home?

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Who still calls the Blue House home?

The author is the national news 2 team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The compound of the Blue House, the former presidential office and residence, is open to the public for the first time in 74 years. Since the establishment of the government in 1948, 12 presidents have worked and lived in the Blue House. Located at the foot of Mount Bukak, it is differentiated from other foreign presidential offices for its harmony with nature. Trees are planted everywhere on the grounds of the Blue House, flowers are blooming and birds are flying.

Employees working at the Blue House studied the flowers and birds each season. If the president or a foreign guest asked about the flowers and birds, they were expected to be able to answer right away. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that if they saw an unknown flower they gently trampled on it and if they heard the sound of unfamiliar birds, they chased them away.

They would need to know not only the names of the flowers but also the ages of the trees. About 50,000 trees from 180 species are planted on the grounds of the Blue House. The 740-year-old yew tree at the site of Sugung is the oldest. Called Jumok in Korean, the tree’s bark and heartwood is red. Blue House employees say the Jumok tree has been “a thousand years alive and a thousand years dead.” It has persistent vitality and many uses. Some trees have become hundreds of years younger in a day because a groundsman incorrectly reported the age to the president.

In the greenhouse at the Blue House, flowers and bonsai trees are planted each season. The greenhouse was at first close to the Nokjiwon, the largest garden in the Blue House. In 2004, during the Roh Moo-hyun presidency, it was moved to another location as a building for the secretaries was built at the site. Former President Kim Young-sam enjoyed jogging around the lawn of Nokjiwon. In autumn, a group of cosmoses bloom at the entrance to Nokjiwon, which is close to the Chunchugwan, the press room. It was planted by former President Kim Dae-jung, who loved cosmos.

As the Blue House is located at the foot of the mountain, one president enjoyed a secret hobby.

If you follow the hiking trail from the Blue House residence to Mount Bukak, you will reach a flat rock. Former president Chun Doo Hwan used to practice his tee shot here. There is a military base in the distance where the ball would fall, and the golf ball was retrieved from there. Some people called this the “G-course.”

If you go to the Blue House, pay attention to the flowers, trees and birds. You will see columbines and garden stonecrops and hear the hornbills, thrushes, and forest birds.

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