May 11, 2017 11:11
President Moon Jae-in vowed in his inaugural address on Wednesday to move the presidential office out of the palatial Cheong Wa Dae compound and into the far less-glamorous government headquarters in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul.
The move is symbolic of plans to end the quasi-imperial status of the presidency and share more powers with other democratic institutions. "I will leave Cheong Wa Dae as soon as preparations are done, and it will herald a new era of a humble presidency," Moon said.
Gwanghwamun is the main government and business district just south of the lush presidential compound that sits behind a royal palace from the Chosun Dynasty.
Moon also pledged to move the presidential residence from Cheong Wa Dae to a more utilitarian home in Gwanghwamun.
Instead, the Cheong Wa Dae compound is to be turned into a public park. The iconic Blue House has become a symbol of presidential secrecy and disconnection from reality at least since his ill-fated predecessor Park Geun-hye holed up there behind the high compound walls as the corruption and influence-peddling scandal closed in on her.
Tales of her operetta court in Cheong Wa Dae, complete with ancient family retainers, fawning quacks and bewigged jesters, have entertained and infuriated Koreans for months if not years.
Gwanghwamun on the other hand has grown to symbolize people power since it was the scene of massive candle-light protests that eventually led to her ouster.
Moon hopes to project a more accessible image if he moves his office to Gwanghwamun. In his inaugural address he promised to consult frequently with his key staff members and communicate regularly with the public, which the reclusive Park signally refused to do, and even pledged to personally brief the media on important issues.
The president gave a press conference later Wednesday about his nominee for prime minister and appointment of his chief of staff. But some are warning of the security headaches that could entail. The government headquarters stands amid a cluster of tall buildings separated by narrow streets, which could be a nightmare for the presidential security detail.
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