A welcoming Korean residence

| January 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
The residence of the ambassador of Korea, on Acacia Avenue in Rockcliffe Park, is known as ”Greystone.“

The residence of the ambassador of Korea, on Acacia Avenue in Rockcliffe Park, is known as ”Greystone.“

Two large, fierce haetae guard the entrance to the stunning stone residence of Korean Ambassador Cho Hee-yong and his wife, Yang Lee. The strange creatures sitting on their plinths in front of the large circular driveway serve a purpose. In traditional Korean mythology, they are said to discern good and evil, prevent natural disasters and bring good luck and happiness.

These creatures lead the way into one of embassy row’s more charming Rockcliffe homes, an eye-catching building on Acacia Avenue, located on an international corner surrounded by diplomatic neighbours from Spain, India, Japan and Austria.

Although the house looks as though it might have been built earlier, it was erected in 1928 for Dr. Frederick W.C. Mohr. One of the city’s most influential architects, Werner Ernest Noffke, was in charge of the design and created the grey stone mansion in a combination of Gothic style, with its emphasis on natural light, and Tudor Revival with a gabled roof line, tall mullioned windows and a prominent chimney. Small wrought iron balconies decorate the second floor. The house is still known by the nickname inspired by its exterior, “Greystone.”

Korean Ambassador Cho Hee-yong and his wife ,Yang Lee.

Korean Ambassador Cho Hee-yong and his wife ,Yang Lee.

We were fortunate to arrive shortly after the house had been dressed up by a florist for the Hospice at May Court’s fall fundraiser, “Home for the Holidays.” Hundreds of visitors spent the weekend touring the main reception rooms, admiring dining room tables with traditional Korean tableware and gorgeous dark purple orchids, frozen red roses and little cotton balls and wicker stars, all festive symbols of the season. Mrs. Cho admits she has chosen a soft mauve Hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, to match the floral arrangements.

Guests enter from the front door into a bright foyer with a circular wood and wrought iron staircase and a tall mullioned window. To the left is the original dining room and sitting room, while on the right is a bright, windowed living room. Walls and curtains are cream, accented with soft, subtle upholstered chairs and sofas. Since Korea is a country where most people sit on the floor, Mrs. Cho points out the room’s only “made in Korea” furniture, a low, square, wooden dining table with a carved peony design.
The walls are hung with Korean art, the most interesting an abstract by one of Korea’s best-known artists, Lee Shik-doo. Its bright reds, blues and yellows reflect the most common colours in Korea, Mrs. Cho says.

The fearsome haetae who guards the entrance to the residence.

The fearsome haetae who guards the entrance to the residence.

The diplomatic duo has only been in Ottawa a few months, but they love their new home and want to share it with friends, particularly Canadian veterans of the Korean War.

“It’s a beautiful house,” the ambassador says, and its Canadian flavour and feeling is a symbol of the good relations between Canada and Korea. The Korean government bought the house in 1979 and later added a large addition on the south side. The extension matches the original style and only the slightly darker colour of the new stone tells the tale of a new, large second dining room for entertaining and a lower-level TV and karaoke room that opens onto the garden.

The residence has three bedrooms and a study on the second floor and comes with a talented Korean chef who presents his homeland’s specialties for guests. A recent luncheon to honour Korean War veterans and their spouses featured a starter called gujeolpan or “nine delicacies” — a small lacquer box divided into sections containing small pancakes to be filled with fresh vegetables and meat — followed by steamed lobster, bulgogi (grilled sliced beef with rice) and for dessert, lime tarts, sweet rice cakes and fruit.
Each year at the end of June, the embassy holds a huge garden party for Canadian veterans of the Korean War and hundreds of guests spill onto the stone patio at the back and around the swimming pool on the well-manicured corner lot.

The ambassador admits this is a good time to be in Canada as two memorable events will be celebrated in 2013 — the 60th anniversary of the Korean armistice and 50 years of Canada-Korean diplomatic relations. “We never forget Canadians protected our peace and freedom,” Ambassador Cho says.
Anyone fortunate enough to receive an invitation should give a big smile and a wave to the haetae at the entrance.

Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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