Go to contents

744-year-old guardians of Cheong Wa Dae

Posted October. 22, 2022 07:42,   

Updated October. 22, 2022 07:42


Dozens of leaders of Cheong Wa Dae came and went. However, here stand trees, which have never left their place despite many years’ adversity. A 744-year-old yew tree at the site of Sugungteo is recorded as the oldest tree. This short tree has an almost empty trunk, weathering long years, but it becomes lively and leafy every summer. This tenacious creature is not the only one that guards Cheong Wa Dae. As many as 43 centenarian trees stand strong as well.

Since Cheong Wa Dae allowed public access on May 10, much attention has been paid to architecture, including Sangchunjae, a presidential venue for distinguished guests, and the residence building where former presidents used to stay. By contrast, around 55,000 trees in Cheong Wa Dae have been left unnoticed in the backdrop of the hiking trail. Author Park Sang-jin, an emeritus professor of forestry at Kyungpook National University, studied 208 types of trees inside Cheong Wa Dae as commissioned by the Presidential Security Service and, in 2019, released "Cheong Wa Dae’s Trees and Flowers," selecting 85 out of the 208 trees and providing detailed information to readers. "I wanted to tell more people the stories of trees living in Cheong Wa Dae,” Park said.

One of the most interesting parts of this book is the discussion of the political meanings of commemorative trees planted by former presidents. Red-leaved hornbeam, planted in 2003 by then President Roh Moo-hyun along a nearby hiking trail, does not come across a good-looking tree because the flowers are somewhat unattractive with no fruits hanging from the tree. Ironically, one that makes it unique is that it is one of the most common trees you can see on almost every mountain. "The red-leaved hornbeam symbolizes Roh’s philosophy that he sought to become a leader who gets closer to citizens and defies authoritarianism," the author described.

The first chapter has a map indicating where the trees are located in Cheong Wa Dae. It must be an unforgettable moment when you stroll around Cheong Wa Dae with the map filled with unfamiliar tree names in your hands. Indeed, you may be able to come across the actual owners of Cheong Wa Dae, which have always been around for a long time, through which things have changed ceaselessly.