Previous presidents' personal items go on display at Blue House

Visitors to the Blue House in central Seoul view the running shoes worn by former president Kim Young-sam (1929-2015) at the new exhibition hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, on Thursday [NEWS1]

Previous presidents' professional achievements and failures make news headlines every day but often, the smaller aspects of their lives, like hobbies and interests, go less noticed.

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Blue House opening to the public, the former presidential complex is hosting a special exhibition that sheds light on the less known sides of Korea's 12 previous leaders.

“In honoring the one-year milestone of this historical complex where Korean presidents for the past 74 years led the country through its tumultuous history, we’ve created exhibitions for the public to get to know the former presidents on a deeper level,” said Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Park Bo-gyoon at the Blue House in a press conference on Thursday. “Instead of focusing on the presidents’ achievements and failures like any typical exhibition, this one at the Blue House aspires to be more fun and approachable to the public by displaying personal objects of Korea’s former presidents. These objects are also significant in that they give insight into the leadership styles."

Culture minister Park Bo-gyoon talk to reporters about the new exhibition of Korea's former presidents at the Blue House in Jongno District, central Seoul, on Thursday. [NEWS1]

The exhibition at the Main Hall’s Sejongsil and Ingwangsil includes items with historical significance such as Korea’s first president Rhee Syngman’s (1875-1965) English typewriter which he used to write up the documents for the U.S.-Korea alliance, as well as more personal items such as Park Chung-hee’s (1917-1979) pencil sketch of his Spitz named Banguri and Kim Young-sam’s (1929-2015) worn-out running shoes that he used to wear on his daily morning jogs.

“Jogging for Kim Young-sam was not only a hobby but also an important time that he used to think about major state affairs of Korea,” said Park. “His staff could tell if something big was going to occur later in the day by the speed of his morning jogs. Before making a big announcement or decision, he is said to have made the run twice as fast!”

Very personal pictures of the 12 presidents hugging their pets, exercising, eating and even putting on their shoes before leaving the Blue House, are also on display.

“We gathered these personal items, information and photos from the presidents’ families, past Blue House reporters, workers, museums and archives,” said Park.

A copy of former president Park Chung-hee’s (1917-1979) pencil sketch of his Spitz named Banguri displayed at the Blue House on Thursday [YONHAP]

About 50 pieces are displayed at the exhibition in the Main Hall. Most are original items.

Another exhibition at the Chunchugwan Press Center titled “You Are Cordially Invited” showcases presidential furniture and china. Items date as far back as the early 1900s.

“We hope that the exhibitions can provide an opportunity for the public to get to know the presidents in a way that has never been experienced before,” said Park.

For the protection of the Blue House facilities and the safety of visitors, the number of people at the exhibition halls is limited to 200 per viewing.

The exhibitions began on Thursday and runs through Aug. 28. English descriptions are available.