The Yongsan controversyCHOI HYUN-JU
The author is a life and economic news team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Hanseong-bu Yongsan-bang” was the first administrative district name of Yongsan, central Seoul in 1896 during the Joseon Dynasty (1319-1910).
When Mongols invaded Goryeo (918-1392) in 1231, they set up their logistics base in Yongsan. It was because of the geographical advantage. As Yongsan is adjacent to the Han River, it was advantageous to go through Mt. Namsan and Mt. Bukhan and attack the capital of Gaegyeong after landing.
The Qing troops dispatched to Joseon to suppress a military rebellion in 1882 also were stationed in Yongsan. So were the Japanese forces through the occupation from 1910. The U.S. Forces also stayed there from the liberation in 1945 to 2017.
While it was generally considered a strategic military point, the area was highlighted as an affluent neighborhood in the 1970s. After the military regime was established in 1961, the Hannam-dong area, where the army headquarters was located, emerged as the center of power and wealthy people rushed in. One of the reasons for its popularity is the fengshui, with a mountain in the back and a river in the front.
In 2007, the city of Seoul had planned a 30 trillion-won ($24.7 billion) international business district project, which was called “the biggest development in Korea’s history.” It was a plan to build 66 buildings, including a 620-meter-tall high-rise. The development project was later scrapped.
After 74 years, the presidential office is to be moved from the Blue House in Jongro to the defense ministry headquarters in Yongsan. It is the first promise implemented by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. But his relocation plan resulted in serious noise.
Yongsan residents are concerned that ongoing development regulations will become stricter, and the move will cause traffic congestion and chaos from frequent demonstrations. Also, the relocation poses a grave threat to national security in the course of moving the defense ministry. Some say it is a waste of expense to move the office. Others say Yoon wants to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan because of fengshui, given the allegations that he believed in shamanism.
Whatever the reason, Yoon’s will to get out of the isolated structure of the Blue House and communicate with the people is positive. But I am not sure it is necessary to rush and relocate within 50 days, which is before his term begins. As this is a major national project, he needs to provide sufficient explanation and preparation for controversies and concerns. Only then can the president-elect get support and sympathy. If he is pushing his moving plan only to show his will to give up the imperial presidency, the purpose is meaningless.