Moon Quails at Relocation of Presidential Office

  • By Kim Ah-jin, Kim Hyeong-won

    March 22, 2022 09:43

    President Moon Jae-in on Monday signaled that he wants to block with all his ebbing strength his successor Yoon Seok-youl's plan to move the presidential office out of Cheong Wa Dae.

    In a meeting of his outgoing Cabinet, Moon claimed the relocation to the current Defense Ministry in Yongsan "seems to be too hasty" citing security reasons, and refused to authorize Yoon's transition team tapping into the government's cash reserves to fund the W49.6 billion plan (US$1=W1,215).

    Presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, "The security crisis on the Korean Peninsula is escalating and it is necessary to look sufficiently into concerns that sudden, unprepared relocations of the Defense Ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and [Cheong Wa Dae] could cause a security vacuum and confusion."

    "Unless there is an urgent reason… it would be reasonable to decide the relocation of the presidential office after having enough time for a full review and prepartion," he said.

    Park added that flight control zones and aerial defense systems that are currently centered around Cheong Wa Dae must be changed to accommodate the relocation.

    The remarks echo a line that had been gradually crystallizing in the ruling party as it scrambled for reasons why it might oppose the relocation, which had been one of Moon's own campaign pledges before he gave up.

    The Defense Ministry (right) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff building in Yongsan, Seoul /Yonhap

    Yoon vowed to push ahead. His spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye told reporters later in the day, "There is of course no way to force [Moon] if he refuses to cooperate on an essential part of this project in the transfer of power. But at the stroke of midnight on May 10, President-elect Yoon will fulfill his promise to fully open Cheong Wa Dae without fail."

    She added Yoon will continue to work from his temporary office in Jongno near Cheong Wa Dae even after being inaugurated if the outgoing government refuses to cooperate.

    There is no love lost between the outgoing and incoming presidents. Moon appointed Yoon as prosecutor general amid much fanfare, only to find that Yoon's corruption investigations were getting uncomfortably close to his own cronies and did everything he could to force him out.

    An earlier lunch between the two was canceled because they failed to overcome fundamental differences. Both sides said they will try to reschedule the meeting, but now that looks even less likely.

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