Is this any way to leave the Blue House?

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Is this any way to leave the Blue House?

In a meeting Wednesday at the Blue House, the Moon Jae-in administration approved a 36-billion-won ($29.5 million) budget to relocate the presidential office to the Ministry of National Defense building in Yongsan. During the last campaign, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol promised to move his presidential office outside the Blue House if elected. With the last-minute funding by the Moon administration, an unprecedented clash between outgoing and incoming administrations has been resolved.

The disagreement over Yoon’s relocation plan was ugly. After Yoon made it official by personally briefing his relocation plan to the press shortly after his election victory on March 9, Rep. Yun Ho-jung, head of the emergency committee of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), brazenly opposed it. Yoon countered that by vowing to “set up a tent” for his office if the DP wouldn’t help. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Kim Bu-kyum confirmed the government’s intention to cooperate with the relocation given Yoon’s determination to move the office to the ministry building. It would have been far better if the government and DP cooperated earlier. As Moon’s decision to completely open the long-closed alley behind the Blue House around Mount Bukak from Wednesday suggests, the buck stops there.

The relocation is a fait accompli now. The remaining question is whether it can be finished in May or June, because it is “impossible to relocate to the ministry building by May 10,” when Yoon is sworn in as president, according to his spokesperson. The delay is caused by an April 18-28 South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise involving the ministry and by a lack of budget needed to furnish the new presidential office and relocate the presidential security office. That will require the release of more reserve funds by the government later.

The incoming administration must discuss effective ways to turn the new presidential office into a space with a non-authoritarian ambience so that the president can freely communicate with his aides when the need arises. Prof. Seo Hyun, a renowned architect at Seoul National University, offered a clue about the transformation. He described the current defense ministry building as a legacy of a rigid military hierarchy reminiscent of the dull structures of the Soviet era. The new administration must have the wisdom to think outside the box instead of relying on a group of bureaucrats for the design of the new office.

The new presidential office will also be used by Yoon’s successors whether they be liberal or conservative. The incoming and outgoing powers must stop unnecessary fights and create a space future generations can take pride in.
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