Communication is keyPresident-elect Yoon Suk-yeol vowed to relocate the presidential office from the Blue House to the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan, central Seoul. The defense ministry building will be surrounded by a wall similar to that of the White House.
In a press conference on Sunday, Yoon said the move will help advance Korean democracy as it will bring the presidential office closer to civilians and make the day-to-day affairs of the chief executive more transparent.
Although Yoon initially promised to relocate the presidential office to Gwanghwamun Square during the campaign, he found the option to be “impossible” and “catastrophic” to civilians due to many factors, including but not limited to security issues.
President Moon Jae-in and his predecessors have all toyed with the idea of moving the current presidential office at the Blue House as it carries a lordly ambience and is located away from the people and some presidential aides.
Yoon admitted, however, that the relocation could appear too hasty with just 50 days left before his term begins. Whether the relocation should take place in such a swift manner is debatable.
Many may question if the relocation of the presidential office should be the top priority amidst the ravaging wave of Covid-19, the unstable economy, and military provocation from North Korea. Moreover, the relocation of the defense ministry staff could also present security concerns.
Yoon has since decided to begin his tenure in office from a new location because the relocation of the Blue House will be difficult if he moves in.
Since the decision is set, efforts must be made to minimize confusion. Much work is needed as the relocation of the presidential office and the consequent relocation of the defense ministry to the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff nearby must all take place within 50 days.
The defense ministry believes that for the next 20 days, it would have to prepare around-the-clock for the move.
Any misstep could give the new government a poor start as national security must not be affected in any way. Yoon claims the move would cost 49.6 billion won ($41 million) from the government’s reserve fund, and not several hundred billions of won as the Democratic Party estimates.
While improved communication is the primary motivation behind this move, the move to Yongsan alone will not be sufficient to improve communication between the presidential office and the people.
Yoon must continue having frank communication with the press and public to justify his move to Yongsan.