South Korean president-elect to relocate presidential office

Seoul, Mar 20 (EFE).- South Korea’s president-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, said Sunday he would relocate the presidential office from the Blue House to the defense ministry in Seoul to abolish a “symbol of imperial power” and get closer to the people.

The decision is highly symbolic since the mountainside presidential palace, called Cheong Wa Daem, has housed the residence and office of several South Korean presidents for decades.

However, critics, including Yoon, have pointed out that the Blue House is physically far away and cut off from the public.

The offices of the presidential aides, including the press, are away from the building that houses the presidential secretariat.

Relocating the presidential palace was one of his election promises to end the “imperial” style of governance.

The former top prosecutor will begin his five-year term on May 10 after his election on Mar.9.

The transition team weighed in two new locations for the new presidential office.

It also considered moving to the Seoul Government Complex in Gwanghwamun Square at the heart of the capital, ruled out over security concerns.

The team finally zeroed in on the defense ministry complex, 6 km south of the Blue House in the Yongsan district.

Economic and security concerns fueled the decision since the ministry complex is next to the Yongsan cantonment, which, until recently, was the United States military base in South Korea.

It also serves as the headquarters for the Combined Forces Command for the two military allies in the region.

Yoon said he would work from his new office immediately after his inauguration, and the Blue House would be open to visitors from May 10 onward.

The defense ministry headquarters would move to the building housing the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in the same complex.

“It is a difficult task, but it is a decision I made for the future of the country,” Yoon told reporters at his transition team headquarters.

“I ask the people to understand that this is not simply a relocation of space, but my determination to properly serve them and work properly, as well as to fulfill my promise to them,” said the president-elect as reported by the Yonhap news agency.

Yoon’s plan to relocate the presidential palace has sparked a fierce debate.

Critics say the symbolic decision would waste resources and not help the president better communicate with the people.

Yoon’s team has estimated that the relocation would cost around $33 million.

The outgoing-President Moon Jae-in had also proposed to relocate but ruled it out later on cost grounds.

Yoon is also considering using the current residence of the chief of staff in the Hannam neighborhood, about 2 km east of the new office, as a presidential residence. EFE

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