[Editorial] Yoon would do well to listen to NSC’s concerns about moving presidential office

Posted on : 2022-03-22 18:06 KST Modified on : 2022-03-22 18:06 KST
It’s becoming clear that Yoon’s plan to relocate the presidential office has been implemented with careless haste
President Moon Jae-in presides over a plenary session of the National Security Council in this undated file photo. (Hankyoreh file photo)
President Moon Jae-in presides over a plenary session of the National Security Council in this undated file photo. (Hankyoreh file photo)

Citing the possibility of a security vacuum and insufficient time, the Blue House on Monday expressed its grave concern regarding President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s plan to relocate the presidential office to the Ministry of National Defense compound in Yongsan before his inauguration, which Yoon announced the day prior.

The Blue House held a National Security Council (NSC) meeting and went over the matter, later stating that “the plan to relocate the Defense Ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the presidential office and its supporting agencies such as the Office of the President and the Presidential Security Service within an imminent date while only a few weeks remain until the incoming administration kicks off seems somewhat unfeasible.”

The Blue House especially noted, “The security crisis on the Korean Peninsula is escalating. The unplanned and sudden relocation of the Defense Ministry and the JCS, as well as the Blue House crisis management center, can lead to security gaps and chaos,” adding, “The government will share these concerns with the president-elect and the presidential transition committee and decide upon its final stance after sufficient and necessary negotiations.”

The stance is a reasonable one. It’s common sense that not even an inkling of a gap in national security should be tolerated, as it determines the survival of the people and the fate of the nation. And no matter what anyone says, the responsibility for and obligation of national security lies with the current president until May 9. To cool-headedly assess the impact the successive relocation of central national security facilities such as the presidential office, the Defense Ministry, and the JCS may have on South Korea’s national security is the unavoidable obligation of the current president. Yoon must take to heart the opinion expressed by the NSC.

Even more important to note is that it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Yoon’s plan to relocate the presidential office has been implemented with careless haste. Yoon has not only turned a blind eye to concerns of security gaps but also underestimated the colossal moving cost his vision for a presidential office in Yongsan will incur.

When asked on Sunday about the estimated cost of moving military facilities and installing areas for the public in Yongsan — costs separate from the cost of relocating the presidential office — Yoon mentioned the specific amount of 49.6 billion won. But the following day, on Monday, Yoon’s spokesperson Kim Eun-hye said, “If the JCS is relocated to Namtaeryeong, at least 120 billion won will be needed to build a new JCS compound” — referencing an expense twice the amount specified by Yoon.

Kim insisted that the estimated cost of 120 billion won was expressly noted in a question-and-answer material distributed during Monday’s press briefing. The material contained no such detail. Plus, there’s no guessing how much more Yoon’s plan will cost, including security costs to defend against electromagnetic pulse bombs. To witness such carelessness and negligence and not pump the brakes just because the president-elect said to move the office would truly be a dereliction of one’s duty as the current president.

In that sense, framing the NSC’s expression of its opinion as a power struggle between the new and old powers of the incoming and outgoing administration is wholly inappropriate. Some on Yoon’s side are saying that the outgoing administration is attempting to hinder the launch of the incoming administration, which is a thought-process beyond common sense.

Things have come to this because of Yoon’s push to unilaterally decide significant national affairs. Yoon’s close aides and the People Power Party’s leadership sugarcoating Yoon’s obstinance as “resolution” and a “feat” instead of dissuading him is also at fault. We hope Yoon will no longer obsess over the unrealistic goal of taking the presidential office out of the Blue House before his inauguration and instead pursue the matter after inauguration, once it can garner the support of the majority of South Koreans after consensus-seeking and thorough examination.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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