Yoon to move presidential office to foreign ministry or defense ministry building

SEOUL– President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol decided Thursday to relocate the presidential office to either the foreign ministry building or the defense ministry compound after weighing the options with his transition team, his spokesperson said.

Yoon met with key members of the team, including Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo and members of the subcommittees for planning and foreign affairs, and chose the two sites, Kim Eun-hye said in a statement.

“The members of the relevant subcommittees decided to visit the sites tomorrow afternoon for an inspection,” she said.

Yoon pledged during the campaign that if elected, he would set up his office in the Seoul government complex in Gwanghwamun and open the Cheong Wa Dae compound to the public. The foreign ministry is located in Gwanghwamun.

The defense ministry compound in Yongsan has recently been mentioned as an alternative to the Gwanghwamun complex because of its advantages in terms of security and other issues.
The government estimates that relocating the presidential office to the defense ministry compound will cost 50 billion won (US$41 million), while relocating it the foreign ministry building will cost 100 billion won, an official told Yonhap News Agency earlier in the day.

“The interior ministry is estimating the budget for moving the president’s office and the offices of his secretaries,” the official said. “Moving them into the annex of the Seoul government complex costs about twice as much as moving into the defense ministry.”

Using the annex is expensive partly because the foreign ministry would have to move out and pay rent on alternative office spaces, according to the official.

Setting up a secure network for communication with overseas missions would also cost around 30 billion won.

In contrast, the defense ministry compound has enough empty space within its existing buildings to accommodate the presidential office.

The two sites cost roughly the same in terms of renovating the office space with added security and transferring items to the new location.

Another official said the estimates have continued to change, but “cost will be a major factor, as it involves taxpayer money.”

Transition team officials are also looking at the option of constructing a new presidential residence in Yongsan should the presidential office move to the defense ministry compound.

The new residence would be located near a major park planned for construction and bring the president closer to the people in line with Yoon’s stated aim, they said.

Critics have viewed Cheong Wa Dae as a symbol of an “imperial” presidency due to its location on a secluded compound on the foothills of a mountain just north of Gwanghwamun.

Yoon’s predecessors, including President Moon Jae-in, made similar pledges to relocate the presidential office but withdrew them over logistical and security issues.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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