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Defense ministry compound in Yongsan emerges as new venue for Yoon's presidential office

All News 14:57 March 15, 2022

SEOUL, March 15 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry compound in Yongsan, central Seoul, has emerged as a new candidate to host the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol government's presidential office, officials close to the president-elect said Tuesday.

Yoon is pushing for the dismantling of Cheong Wa Dae, a secluded compound of the current presidential office and residence, and its relocation to the Seoul Government Complex in Gwanghwamun Square at the heart of the capital in accordance with his campaign pledges to depart from imperial presidency and better communicate with people and the press.

The Ministry of National Defense compound is seen behind a former U.S. military base in Yongsan, central Seoul, in this file photo taken in February 2021. (Yonhap)

But critics have raised concern that Gwanghwamun, a busy downtown area, is unfit as the venue of the presidential office and its supplementary facilities due to security and other reasons.

Yoon is now actively considering relocating Cheong Wa Dae, also known as the Blue House, to Yongsan's defense ministry compound due to its potential advantages in security management, according to the officials.

Compared with Gwanghwamun's government complex and the adjacent foreign ministry building, the defense ministry compound reduces security concerns, as there are no tall buildings nearby and it is easy to block it from the outside, they noted.

Moreover, an underground bunker connected to the defense ministry building can substitute for the current Cheong Wa Dae underground bunker used as a war room in national emergencies, they added.

"We're considering a plan to set up the presidential office inside the defense ministry building in order to get one step closer to the people," said an informed official.

"Relocation to Gwanghwamun's Seoul Government Complex or the foreign ministry building is still in the cards. We're looking at the pros and cons, and it is not yet finalized where the presidential office will go," the official said.

Officials said the defense ministry won't be affected by the presidential office's possible relocation, because it has sufficient free space in its old and new buildings.

Even with a slight remodeling, the defense ministry buildings can easily house the presidential office, they added.

Considering the president's pattern of movement, the Hannam-dong official residences of the foreign minister, the Army chief of staff or the defense minister, all just a few kilometers from the defense ministry, are being mentioned as candidates for the new presidential residence.

So far, Yoon and his aides have reportedly considered the prime minister's residence near Cheong Wa Dae as the venue of the new presidential residence on condition of the presidential office's relocation to Gwanghwamun.

Rep. Yoon Han-hong of the People Power Party, who is in charge of overhauling Cheong Wa Dae, has reportedly visited the new candidate sites for the presidential office and residence. He is expected to disclose a detailed plan on the relocation within this week at the earliest.

"The relocation plan must be finalized by the beginning of next week at the latest in order to finish office remodeling and other preparations before the inauguration of the new president," another informed official said. President-elect Yoon's inauguration is scheduled for May 10.

Yoon has promised a smaller and less powerful presidential office, criticizing Cheong Wa Dae for dominating ministries and monopolizing power based on the "imperial" presidential system.

Besides the relocation, Yoon is determined to reorganize the presidential office into a number of public-private joint committees across sectors.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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