Moon goes out on a high popularity note
Thousands saw former President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook off from Seoul Station as they went into retirement to the small village of Pyeongsan in South Gyeongsang on Tuesday.
But not all were fans.
A group of protestors shouted expletives at Moon although they were prevented from getting too close by police.
The protestors were greatly outnumbered by well-wishers lined up from the station’s entrance to the boarding platform.
“Thank you, thank you everyone,” Moon spoke into a microphone before boarding a KTX train around noon after attending the inauguration of Yoon Suk-yeol.
“Who among past presidents could have had such a beautiful end? Thanks to all of you, I was a happy president until the end.”
When the couple arrived in front of the Pyeongsan village hall, located only a few blocks from their retirement home, hundreds of people were wearing blue shirts or caps and holding blue balloons, Moon's signature color since his 2017 presidential campaign. They erupted in cheers as the former presidential couple appeared.
Moon is the first president to retire with an approval rating over 40 percent since direct elections were restored in 1987. His approval rating a year into his presidency was also the highest for a Korean president in history, 83 percent, according to Gallup Korea.
In April 2021, Moon and Kim bought a two-story house on a 2,630.5 square meters (28,314 square feet) plot in Pyeongsan Village in Jisan-ri, Habuk-myeon, near their original residence in Maegok Village in Yangsan, a city 190 miles southeast of Seoul
The couple planned to return to Maegok, where they lived from 2008 to 2017, but eventually chose Pyeongsan Village for security reasons. Their old residence would not be able to accommodate the guards.
Pyeongsan is good for hiking, located near scenic Mount Yeongchuk. Moon is an avid hiker, having trekked the Himalayas in 2016. He frequented Mount Bukak, near the Blue House, during his presidency.
The Tongdosa Temple, a temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and a Unesco World Heritage site, is located just 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the residence.
The grave of Moon's mother, Kang Han-ok, is 13 kilometers away.
It is also 50 minutes by car from Bongha Village in Gimhae, where Moon’s longtime friend, former President Roh Moo-hyun, whom he served as senior secretary for civil affairs and chief of staff, is buried.
Moon has said he wants to live as a “forgotten person” after retirement.
But he is expected to be summoned to Seoul within two weeks, when U.S. President Joe Biden visits Seoul for a summit with his successor, Yoon, on May 21. Moon will meet Biden the next day.
No cars were allowed within 1.8 kilometers from Moon’s house on Tuesday, and additional police officers were dispatched to the village to prevent scuffles from taking place between pro-Moon and anti-Moon groups.
Two civic groups told local police that at least 155 of their members were planning to hold rallies to protest Moon’s arrival in the village on Tuesday.
A pro-Moon civic group told the police that some 5,000 members would be coming to welcome Moon.
When former President Park Geun-hye returned to her hometown Daegu in March, some 5,000 people gathered in front of her residence. When late President Roh Moo-hyun returned to Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, in 2008, as many as 10,000 reportedly flocked to the village.
BY ESTHER CHUNG, AN DAE-HUN, NA UN-CHAE [email@example.com]