October 10, 2011 12:30
President Lee Myung-bak will live in Naegok-dong, Seocho district in southern Seoul after he steps down from office, instead of returning to his old home in Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam. Cheong Wa Dae said Sunday. Lee bought the 462 sq.m plot in his son's name.
Lee had said he plans to return to his home in Nonhyeon after retirement, but when a weekly magazine reported that he bought the new real estate, Cheong Wa Dae decided to reveal the change of plan. Ex-presidents in Korea tend to withdraw to a kind of retirement compound from which they rarely emerge.
A high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official said it had a budget of W4 billion (US$1=W1,182) to buy the land needed to build quarters for the security detail as stipulated by the National Assembly last year, but real estate in Nonhyeon costs W35 million per 3.3 sq.m. "That means we would only have been able to buy a little over 300 sq.m of land, making it difficult to build the quarters."
The official said Lee's Nonhyeon home was surrounded by buildings, which added to difficulties in protecting his privacy. The presidential office therefore started looking at a dozen sites in the capital early this year and eventually bought the plot in Naegok-dong in May. Construction is underway.
The land cost W1.12 billion, plus the plot for the security detail that was priced at W4.28 billion, Cheong Wa Dae said. Under law, the president must buy the real estate for his post-retirement home himself but the state pays for the security quarters.
Asked why it has been so cagey about the purchase, Cheong Wa Dae said it was "concerned about security" should the location of the new residence be revealed and information about the construction process be divulged. The presidential office added it was also afraid that property prices in the area would rise if news leaked out that the president wanted to build a home there, making it more difficult for Lee to buy the land.
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