Blue House voices concern over Yoon’s plan to relocate presidential office by May

Posted on : 2022-03-22 17:00 KST Modified on : 2022-03-22 17:29 KST
The president-elect’s camp maintained that they would be opening the Blue House to the public on May 10, inauguration day
Park Soo-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public communication under President Moon Jae-in, delivers a briefing from the Blue House press room on March 21. (Blue House press pool)
Park Soo-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public communication under President Moon Jae-in, delivers a briefing from the Blue House press room on March 21. (Blue House press pool)

The Blue House expressed its opposition to President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s plan to relocate the presidential office to the Ministry of National Defense compound in Yongsan, stating on Monday that “executing the plan within an imminent date seems somewhat unfeasible.” As a result, it’s become much more unlikely that Yoon will realize his plan to take the presidential office out of the Blue House and open up the latter to the public by May 10.

In response, Yoon expressed his disappointment, insisting that he “will fulfill the promise to completely open up the Blue House to the public as of the beginning of the day on May 10.”

According to Moon’s press secretary, Park Soo-hyun, President Moon Jae-in said during a National Security Council briefing he presided over that “barring time-sensitive, urgent circumstances, the reasonable thing to do would be to carry out the move when the Ministry of National Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the Blue House have all made proper preparations.”

The Blue House pointed out that the security vacuum that would open as a result of the presidential office’s relocation couldn’t be ignored. “The security crisis on the Korean Peninsula is escalating,” Park said, explaining that “the unplanned and sudden relocation of the Defense Ministry, the JCS as well as the Blue House crisis management center can lead to security gaps and chaos.”

“The matter of adjusting the antiaircraft defense system including the flight restricted area currently set up with the Blue House as the central focus should be considered as well,” Park added. Many different factors reportedly influenced the Blue House’s pessimism over Yoon’s vision to set up his presidential office in Yongsan — among them: North Korea’s 11 missile launches this year alone; the upcoming birthday of Kim Il-sung (April 15); and the joint military exercise with the US scheduled for April.

Park continued, “Until midnight on the last day of his term (May 9), [President Moon] must look after national security and military command, unforgettable obligations of the current administration and the current president.” He conveyed Moon’s urge to the Defense Ministry, the JCS, and related organizations to “unflinchingly attend to duties until the very last moment.”

Moreover, the Blue House made clear that it will not ask to set aside a reserve fund for the relocation of the presidential office amounting to 49.6 billion won, as requested by Yoon, during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. On Monday, a high-ranking Blue House official said, “It looks like proposing the reserve fund at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting will be difficult.” Reserve funds must pass the Cabinet’s review and receive approval from the president.

Nevertheless, the official added, “If negotiations go well, an extraordinary Cabinet meeting can be called immediately and [the matter] dealt with whenever, so I don’t think the process would be difficult.”

With the Blue House openly opposing Yoon’s plan, it’s become highly unlikely that South Korea will come to see a new presidential office at the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan and an open-to-the-public Blue House. The situation has ratcheted up tensions between incoming and outgoing administrations in Korea yet another notch.

Yoon expressed his disappointment at the news. Yoon’s spokesperson Kim Eun-hye said, “It’s regrettable. If President Moon refuses to cooperate with the requirements of the administrative handover process, there’s no way to force him.”

She further added, “Immediately upon taking office, President-elect Yoon will take urgent measures to enhance the livelihood of the public and handle state affairs in Tongui neighborhood,” referring to where the president-elect’s office is located.

“President-elect Yoon will fulfill the promise to completely open the Blue House to the public as of the beginning of the day on May 10 without fail,” Kim said, announcing that Yoon will take office at the president-elect’s office rather than in the presidential office in the Blue House in Seoul’s Samcheong neighborhood.

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Joh Yun-yeong, staff reporter

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