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Controversy over Korean president-elect’s plan to leave the Blue House

Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s president-elect, wanted to move his workplace from the Blue House to “better access to people”, but the plan drew criticism.

“The president-elect does not accept moving to the Blue House. When he delivers his inaugural address on May 10, he will definitely make his public debut in another location,” said Kim Eun-hye, a spokesman for the president-elect. Yoon Suk-yeol’s Korean election, announced on March 16.

The president-elect’s transition team insisted he wanted to move to a location that was “more accessible to the people”. Adviser Yoon stressed that the chances of a new president working in the Blue House were “nearly zero”.

The Blue House, the building for the South Korean president, is twice the size of the White House of their American counterparts. In an official statement about the decision to move, Mr Yoon’s team said that the Blue House resembles a royal residence away from the public, not the image of an elected leader’s workplace. .

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol during a press conference on March 10 in Seoul.  Photo: AFP.

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol during a press conference on March 10 in Seoul. Photo: AFP.

Adviser Yoon is considering converting the South Korean Ministry of Defense headquarters in Yongsan, downtown Seoul, into the office of the new president.

The Yongsan District, about 5 km south of the Blue House, used to be where a US military base was located and has a lot of defense infrastructure, including an underground bunker connected to the Korean Ministry of National Defense building. This area has several tall buildings, unlike the government office district in the central district of Gwanghwamun.

If the Korean Ministry of National Defense building is chosen as Mr Yoon’s office, it is likely that the residence of the military chief of staff in the nearby Hannamdong district will also be requested as the presidential residence.

Democratic Party incumbent President Moon Jae-in stressed that the site Yoon’s team is considering also does not guarantee easier access to the public than the Blue House. This area is currently prohibited for unauthorized persons to enter.

Moon’s party on March 17 criticized the president’s decision to move his workplace from the Blue House as “hurried and ridiculous” and affecting national security by interfering with the Ministry of Defense and the military. North Korean missile launch.

Some politicians have also accused Yoon of making decisions based on “feng shui” factors, ignoring costs and security concerns. “Many people suspect this move is based on the advice of a feng shui expert who said that the position of the Blue House is not good,” said Democratic lawmaker Cho Jeong-sik.

Lee Jae-oh, senior adviser to Mr. Yoon’s People’s Power Party, on March 18 also commented on the transfer of the presidential office from the Blue House to Yongsan District, instead of the government complex in Gwanghwamun, “There is no other explanation than feng shui.”

The Blue House is located on the land that was used to house the Governor General of Japan in the period 1910-1945. Previously, the land was a training ground for royal guards or the burial place of concubines.

Syngman Rhee, Korea’s first president, named the building here the “Blue House” in 1948. Since then, generations of Korean presidents have worked here, many of them experiencing many ups and downs both during their tenure and after leaving office.

Guards stand in front of the Blue House during an event on April 25, 2016. Photo: AP.

Guards stand in front of the Blue House during an event on April 25, 2016. Photo: AP.

After the Korean War (1950-1953), Syngman Rhee held power for seven years before stepping down due to a wave of nationwide protests in 1960. His successor, Yoon Bo-seon, served less than two years ago, when he was overthrown by General Park Chung-hee. . After nearly two decades in power, Park was assassinated in 1979.

The next two Blue House owners, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, after leaving office, were both sentenced to prison for corruption and had participated in a coup to gain power. During Kim Young-sam’s presidency (1993-1998), the Korean economy crashed due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

President Kim Dae-jung, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his Sunshine policies and efforts to normalize inter-Korean relations, had a fairly smooth tenure. However, his three successors were not so lucky. President Roh Moo-hyun jumped off a cliff to commit suicide after being impeached by parliament and his wife is being investigated for corruption. Mr. Lee Myung-bak and Mrs. Park Geun-hye were both sentenced to prison on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Several self-proclaimed Korean “feng shui masters” have commented in the media that the location of the Blue House is a crossroads of many “bad airs”, bringing bad luck to its owners. They believe that Yongsan is the preferred choice, as both mean “dragon mountain”, and have a harmonious location between the Han River and the mountainous region of Seoul.

Jee Jong-hag, president of the feng shui association in Korea, said that previous kings did not choose this land as a place to build palaces. “Yongsan is a great place, both open and surrounded by mountains. It’s a nice land but not too flashy, unlike where the Blue House is,” said Pak Jee.

When he first took office in 2017, incumbent President Moon Jae-in also planned to move his office to a government building in the Gwanghwamun district. However, Mr. Moon ended up accepting the Blue House job because the additional security requirements were too expensive.

According to analysts, if South Korea removed the president’s office from the Blue House, the cost of realizing this plan could run into billions of dollars in the budget. Meanwhile, South Korea has invested heavily in defense and security command and control systems, high-tech communications networks, and crisis management in the Blue House.

Choi Jin, director of the Presidential Leadership Institute in Seoul, said that if president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol were to move out of the Blue House, the plan would create a “huge cost and workload”. .

Trung Nhan (Based on Reuters, SCMP, beat)

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