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Seoul warns about President-elect’s plan to leave the Blue House

Moon Jae-in’s government warned that South Korea’s president-elect could create a “vacuum and security” if he left the Blue House in a hurry.

“The security crisis on the Korean peninsula is escalating. A sudden and unprepared move will cause a security gap and cause a lot of confusion,” said Park Soo-hyun, secretary of the Korean President’s newspaper. Moon Jae-insaid at a press conference in Seoul today.

The statement was given a day after the President was elected South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol announced that he would not be working at the Blue House, saying he would move his office to the Ministry of National Defense building in Yongsan district, central Seoul, right after taking office on May 10, while the Blue House would be completely open to the public. Mr Yoon’s plan is estimated to cost around 40 million USD.

The Green House seen from the outside on March 18.  Photo: Reuters.

The Green House seen from the outside on March 18. Photo: Reuters.

Press secretary Park warned that relocating the offices of a series of security agencies in such a short time was “inappropriate”, stressing that the move would make more sense if the relocation process did not take too long.

Yoon’s People’s Power Party accused the incumbent government of changing its stance after voicing support for the relocation plan. President Moon Jae-in also proposed not working at the Blue House but eventually had to give up due to security and logistical concerns.

“The president-elect has assessed the potential security issues raised by the Blue House and explained them to the people,” the People’s Power Party said in a statement, urging the South Korean Presidential Office to analyze the situation, budget and cooperate with the plan. .

The Blue House is located on the land that was used to house the Governor General of Japan in the period 1910-1945. Previously, this place used to be the training ground of the royal guards or the burial place of the concubines. Syngman Rhee, Korea’s first president, named the building here “Blue House” in 1948.

The Yongsan District, about 5 km south of the Blue House, was once where the United States placed military facilities and had 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.

The location of the Blue House and the two buildings are considered to be Mr Yoon Suk-yeol's new office.  Image: Joongang Daily

The location of the Blue House and the Ministry of Defense building is expected to be Mr Yoon’s new office. graphic: Joongang Daily.

If the Ministry of Defense building is chosen as Mr Yoon’s office, it is highly likely that the building for the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff in the nearby Hannamdong district will also be taken over as the presidential residence.

Democratic Party President Moon Jae-in on March 17 criticized Yoon’s decision to move his workplace as “hurried and ridiculous”, and affecting national security by shifting the military’s attention between periods of having to focus on monitoring North Korea’s missile launches.

Some politicians have also accused Yoon of making decisions based on “feng shui” factors, ignoring costs and safety. A petition posted on the South Korean presidential office website to protest Yoon’s plans has garnered more than 340,000 signatures.

North Korea has conducted more than 10 weapons tests so far this year, two of which were described as “reconnaissance satellite” tests. South Korea and the United States argue that the satellite test announced by North Korea was actually a test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which is prohibited under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

South Korean and Japanese officials are concerned that North Korea is forging ahead with its missile development program amid international attention focused on the crisis in Ukraine.

Vu Anh (Based on Reuters)

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