May 11, 2023 10:18
Some 3.42 people have visited the former presidential palace of Cheong Wa Dae since it opened to the public a year ago.
The home of Korea's presidents since the Republic of Korea was established in 1948, Cheong Wa Dae opened to the public when President Yoon Suk-yeol was inaugurated on May 10 last year, and the neighborhood is being transformed to attract tourists from all over the world.
Ha Ji-won (47) has been running a Korean restaurant in Samcheong-dong for 12 years. "I was worried about losing Cheong Wa Dae staff and other government workers as customers when the presidential office moved, but tourists have compensated for the loss and sales have actually gone up," he said.
And neighbor Lee Dong-hee (60) said, "We have so many customers at the weekend now that I need more staff. I believe business will expand in this area if more events take place at Cheong Wa Dae on weekdays."
The palace and its extensive gardens have become a must-see for visitors from the provinces. Office worker Kim Nam-gyu (27) took his parents from North Gyeongsang Province to Cheong Wa Dae last weekend. "They thought it was amazing to see a place that had been closed to the public for so long. They were also impressed by the flowers and trees."
On Parents' Day this week, many families posted selfies visiting Cheong Wa Dae.
According to KB Kookmin Card, sales at restaurants, coffee shops and convenience stores around Cheong Wa Dae surged 48 percent last month compared to the same period of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
BC Card also compared card transactions in Samcheong-dong, Ikseon-dong and other areas nearby from May 2022 until last month and found that weekend sales surged 40 percent. Around 60 percent were generated by restaurants.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government wants to host international events at Cheong Wa Dae to boost visitor numbers even more. Cheong Wa Dae is already more popular among tourists than Gyeongbok Palace (1.17 million visitors) and Deoksu Palace (1.11 million) even though the number has been capped at 15,000 a day to preserve the compound.
Taking selfies with the former presidential palace in the background has become hugely popular for foreign tourists as well. A 44-year-old owner of a nearby coffee shop said, "A year ago, more than 90 percent of my customers were Koreans, but now around half are foreign tourists." Many foreign visitors say they were drawn by Korean TV dramas.
One couple from Australia said, "We thought it would be an interesting place to visit since we saw it on many Korean shows on Netflix." Tourists enjoy renting traditional Korean costume at Gyeongbok Palace and strolling through Cheong Wa Dae just to the north.
Numbers are increasing. According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the number of foreign visitors rose from 4,065 in February to 11,487 last month.
A concert at Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary was attended by Yoon, first lady Kim Keon-hee and the families of sailors killed in a skirmish between North Korean and South Korean patrol boats near Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea in 2002.
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