Presidential office is likely moving to Yongsan
Yoon received a report from his transition team on options for relocating the presidential office Thursday afternoon.
Key officials said Yongsan is pretty much confirmed, and that Yoon is expected to make a final decision by the weekend at the latest.
During the campaign, Yoon pledged to move the presidential office to the central government complex in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, to make the presidential office less isolated and more approachable to the public and the press.
The Blue House compound, a highly secured area, would be opened to the public as a museum or park.
After running into feasibility issues, Yoon's Blue House relocation task force conducted a final review of the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan or the Foreign Ministry building in Gwanghwamun.
The Foreign Ministry building is in an annex adjacent to the central government complex.
The Ministry of National Defense compound in Yongsan emerged as the preferred alternative to Gwanghwamun, even though it strays from Yoon's original campaign pledge, because of several advantages including security.
The Defense Ministry is equipped with a helicopter pad, situation room and underground bunkers. It has a main building and annex. It is also close to the U.S. Forces Korea's (USFK) former Yongsan garrison, an area that will be transformed into a public park after the land is fully returned to the Korean government.
Relocating the presidential office was proposed by previous presidents, including President Moon Jae-in, but eventually was deemed infeasible, largely because of security.
Officials after the transition team meeting ending Thursday evening said that no decision has been made yet, and that more review may be needed.
Transition officials were scheduled to visit the potential venues Friday, said Yoon's spokesperson.
Some question the optics of having the presidential office in the Defense Ministry, evoking an image of a military regime, and others point out that the compound is still isolated.
The approachability issue could be alleviated once a public park is opened.
Either the foreign minister or defense minister's residences in Hannam-dong, near by the Defense Ministry, could become the presidential residence if the office ends up in Yongsan. But building a new presidential residence in Yongsan is also being considered to prevent traffic issues and bring the president closer to the people.
A transition team official said, "We will set up the presidential office in Yongsan and create a park on the site of the Yongsan garrison returned from the USFK to create a Korean-style presidential area where citizens can see the office of the president, like the White House in the United States."
Kim Eun-hye, Yoon's spokesperson, said in a briefing Wednesday that there is "zero chance" that Yoon will move into the Blue House upon inauguration on May 10. She confirmed that Yongsan, among other venues, is being considered for the new presidential office.
In a whirlwind week after his election victory, Yoon completed naming all 24 members of his transition team Thursday.
After naming Ahn as transition team chairman on Sunday, appointments were announced rapidly, and Kim Eun-hye, Yoon's spokesperson, during a press briefing Thursday, named the remaining members of subcommittees for the economy, science and social affairs.
Lee Chang-yang, a management engineering professor at KAIST and former executive at SK hynix, was appointed to lead a subcommittee for economic affairs, said Yoon's spokesperson. He will be joined on the subcommittee by Wang Yun-jong, a professor at Dongduk Women's University, Ryu Woong-hwan, a former SK Telecom executive, and ATEAM Ventures CEO Ko San.
Aside from Ko, the other three members of the economy subcommittee are affiliated with SK Group.
The subcommittee for science, technology and education will be led by PPP Rep. Park Sung-joong. Kim Chang-kyung, a professor at Hanyang University, and Nam Ki-tae, a professor at Seoul National University (SNU), were also named to the subcommittee.
PPP Rep. Lim Lee-ja will head the subcommittee for social affairs, welfare and culture. She will be joined by Ahn Sang-hoon, an SNU professor, Peck Kyong-ran, a medicine professor at Sungkyunkwan University, and Kim Do-shik, deputy mayor of Seoul.
Shin Yong-hyeon, a former lawmaker from the opposition People's Party who is close to transition team chairman Ahn Cheol-soo, will serve as a senior spokesperson. Won Il-hee, a former SBS reporter, and Choi Ji-hyeon, an attorney, were named deputy spokespersons.
Graduates of SNU, the alma mater of President-elect Yoon, dominate the transition team. They account for 13 out of 24 members. The team, predominantly male, has a median age of 57.6 years.
There are a total of seven subcommittees, along with separate special committees on national unity, a balanced regional development and Covid-19 response.
The transition team is expected to be formally launched Friday with a signboard hanging ceremony at its office in Tongui-dong in central Seoul.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]