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Blue House

Last Friday I took a tour of the Blue House: Korea’s executive mansion and offices.

Blue House Front View

It was a nice enough tour, though we were only allowed to take pictures from three designated locations. For the most part, the landscapes were beautiful and the architecture stately. There were two exceptions: two carefully manicured lawns which had obviously been artificially flattened for use as helicopter landing pads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much information from the tour guides; they spoke only in Korean, and deputized an astonished KATUSA on the fly to translate for them. The one they chose tended to summarize, for example, a ten minute speech into “See that tree? It’s famous for being 160 years old.”

Palace Guard (in Traditional Garb)

I cannot overemphasize how ornate and elaborate the changing of the guard ceremony was. It involved a marching band, two parades of guards, a prerecorded speech (with translations following each line into Japanese, English, and Chinese), and much pomp and circumstance. This picture shows just one of the parades of guards, minutes before they marched up to relieve the parade comprised of the previous shift. It was a nice show, but I can’t help but assume that the majority of the guards change shift in a much more relaxed manner, and that this was just an additional duty that some of them picked up somehow.

War Memorial

This particular war memorial was much more inspirational than most I’ve seen in Korea. Then again, its symbolism with a phoenix rising over a smiling family seems less like it’s commemorating less the war of the 1950s than the upcoming one which will unite the peninsula. An interesting message for the memorial in front of the house of the President, but a powerful one.

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