Tue, Feb 04, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Take a glimpse into the government's living room

There are worse places to be a fly on the wall. The Executive Yuan's abode, completed in 1940 and known for its simple design, has been home to 12 premiers and is now open to the public every Friday

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The interior walls are covered with polished terrazzo in various colors.

Unlike other conventional buildings, the stairway is situated in the middle. The staircase was built using steel-reinforced concrete, an excellent material for withstanding earthquakes.

In addition, the spacious grand conference room on the third floor of the east side has an imposing 9m high ceiling and stretches 24m from wall to wall.

Another feature of the building is the sash windows, Jung said.

"Although the window frames were made out of wood and have been used for many years, they're still in excellent condition," he said, pushing up one of the windows outside his office overlooking a small garden in the courtyard.

The courtyard was originally used as a parking space where water faucets were constructed for the convenience of visitors who could freshen up before entering the building.

The visitors

Although the Cabinet saw some 4,000 people visit the building on its opening day, the number has since dwindled to between 200 and 300 each day.

Jung said he is not worried about the smaller number.

"We are, after all, not a tourist attraction where the number of visitors and ticket sales matter," he said. "We don't do much advertising, but we try our best to offer the best service possible to our visitors."

According to Jung, there are 120 trained part-time volunteers to guide tours of the building.

To be a qualified guide, volunteers must complete a 32-hour training course and undergo a three-month trial before they are allowed to work. The Cabinet offers a small transportation and food allowance for the volunteers.

"They come from all walks of life, including retired teachers, civil servants and business leaders," Jung said.

Although records have shown no foreign visitors so far, Jun said, English and Japanese literature has been made available and guided tours in various languages can be arranged.

"We have volunteer guides speaking all kinds of languages ranging from Mandarin, Taiwanese, English to Japanese," he said.

In order to tour the building, visitors must make reservations at least one week in advance. The maximum number of visitors allowed per day is 1,000. Visitors must also pass through a metal detector at the entrance.

Unlike the Presidential Office, which is open to the public five days a week, the Executive Yuan is open only on Fridays between 9am and 4pm plus New Year's Day and Double 10 Day.

The opening hours could be extended if need be, Jung said.

"Since the first three months is a trial period, we'll carefully review the program and make adjustments accordingly," he said.

Despite renovation projects in 1975, 1981 and 1991, Jung said, the main building is undergoing another face-lift.

"We hope the NT$20 million, three-year project will be finished by next year," he said.

The project focuses on the removal of paint on the exterior walls and replacing some of the tiles.

The premiers

No one in the Executive Yuan knows about the past seven premiers and the incumbent better than Ho Chia-kuo (侯家國), an adviser to the premier, who has been working in the top tier of government for 19 years.

Ho, a former journalist and international-relations professor, joined the Cabinet in 1984 as the office manager of the Cabinet secretary-general when Yu Kuo-hwa was premier.

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