South Korea’s new president announced Sunday that he will leave Blue House, the presidential palace on the mountainside, and set up his office in Seoul at the Defense Ministry compound. This is to improve communication with the public.
Critics of the relocation plan immediately reacted to the plan. They warned that a hasty move of top government offices could undermine South Korea’s security, necessitate excessive spending, and violate the property rights of residents living in the new presidential area.
Yoon Suk Yeol made one of his main campaign promises, namely that he would relocate the presidential office. Former conservative top prosecutor, whose five-year term began on May 10, said that the Blue House’s design and location have led to criticisms of South Korean leaders being isolated from the public and wielding excessive power.
The offices of presidential advisers and the media room at the Blue House compound are located hundreds of metres (yards) away from the president’s office. Former officials claimed that they used cars or bicycles to visit the president.
Yoon stated in a televised news conference that he chose to build the Defense Ministry compound due to its security-related command facilities. His team did not visit other locations because they were inconvenient for the public.
Yoon stated that he will begin his term in the new office. Yoon stated that Defense Ministry officials will be relocated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff compound and that JCS personnel will be transferred in phases to a war command centre on the outskirts of Seoul.
Yoon stated that a huge public park would be built near the new presidential offices so ordinary people can see his office from afar. He also stated that he plans to set up a press center, meet journalists often, and establish a press office.
Yoon plans to open the Blue House as a park to the public on Yoon’s inauguration day. He stated that he will solicit public opinion to determine the name for the new office.
Yoon’s critics have urged him to not rush the relocation. They said other urgent tasks such as the surging COVID-19 cases and the North Korean nuclear threat, and various economic woes, require greater attention.
Yun Ho-jung is a leader of South Korea’s largest political party, the Liberal Democratic Party. He said that the relocation would create a “big hole in national security” due to North Korean threats. This was because key facilities at South Korea’s Defense Ministry compound were moved quickly. Due to the expected restrictions imposed by the government on development in areas around the new office, some Seoul residents could also suffer “immense harm” to their property rights.
Yun asked, “Is it appropriate for unilaterally pushing for the relocation of Blue House and Defense Ministry, which would determine the national security and citizens’ rights to property rights without asking the public opinion?” Yun urged President-elect Trump to cancel the relocation.
Yoon received a statement from 11 former Joint Chiefs of Staff heads opposing the relocation. According to South Korean media, they claimed that it would enable the enemy to simultaneously strike the presidential office as well as the military headquarters.
Moon Jae-in, the outgoing liberal president and member of the Democratic Party, also had previously promised to leave the Blue House, but abandoned the plans after failing find a suitable site.
Yoon acknowledged that he is aware of the concerns, but stated that if Yoon starts his term at Blue House (which critics call “a symbol for imperial power”, it will be harder to get out.
“It’s not an easy task to move the presidential office. Yoon stated that if Yoon does not fulfill his promise to the people regarding the relocation, the country will never see another president attempt it. “This decision is for the country’s future.”
Yoon stated that the relocation would cost approximately 50 billion won (41 million). Yoon dismissed criticisms that it could cost as high as 1 trillion won ($825m).