The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise to be the “Gwanghwamun president” has been all but scrapped.
In a press conference a week before the 2012 presidential election, he said, “I would relocate the presidential office to the Gwanghwamun Government Complex. I would get out of the Blue House and be among the people for constant communication.” “The White House in the United States and 10 Downing Street in the United Kingdom are close to the people, but there are few security problems. There would be no additional budget burdens as ministries in the complex would move to Sejong.”
In a debate a month before the 2017 presidential election, Moon said, “I have been involved in state administration for long. I have prepared enough based on our successes and failures.”
Former South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung stepped in and asked Moon, “If so, what about the Blue House Secret Service and related laws? You said you will move the presidential office to Gwanghwamun, didn’t you?” Moon answered: “I will transfer the Secret Service to the police.”
Three weeks after his inauguration on May 10, 2017, the presidential transition committee announced that the promise to abolish the Blue House security service and move the duty to the police was not included in the government’s reorganization as human and material resources were insufficient.
In a Jan. 4 news conference by Yoo Hong-joon, an advisor to the Gwanghwamun Era Committee, he said, “We have concluded that it is not possible to find sites that can replace functions like the guesthouse, the main office and the helipad near Gwanghwamun. As President Moon carries out his duties, he realized that security and protocol were more complicated and challenging, and relocation would hinder access.”
But he changed the promise to transfer the security service to the police after he was inaugurated. I cannot help but question whether he didn’t intend it from the beginning.
If Moon actually prepared it thoroughly, Yoo’s reasoning for cancellation is also absurd, because that means he didn’t know there are no available lots in Gwanghwamun. It is like saying he didn’t know traffic was bad during commute when making transportation policy. According to Article 5 of the Presidential Security Act, Gwanghwamun should change into a security zone when the office moves to the government complex. The underground bunker and helipad issues were already raised in 2012. It is funny that it took two years of review to retract the promise. It should take two months, or two days. I feel tax money was wasted.
Lawmaker Park Ji-won said on Jan. 6 that not many politicians and citizens thought the promise was made to be kept. I find Park’s wording shocking, and it is a serious issue if the plan was never meant to be realized.
In last Friday’s news conference, Advisor Yoo said that the relocation was more of a conceptual gesture for enhanced communication rather than a practical plan. How can a promise to relocate the presidential office be conceptual? If we simply justify it and close our eyes, we will be swept up by many other conceptual promises in the next presidential election.
That’s why I want to hear Moon’s sincere explanation. It is already his third year as president, yet this is his third live press conference. As such, it is probably not the right time to talk about communication or a conceptual plan.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 9, Page 30