Communication is keyAn unprecedented scene took place when President Yoon Suk-yeol reported to work at his new office in the Ministry of National Defense building on Wednesday morning. The new president first approached reporters to talk. “Have your desks been furnished?” he asked. Questioned about the absence of the word “unity” in his inaugural speech the previous day, the president said, “I skipped the word, as there’s no need to mention it. Instead, I suggested the values we need to unify.” When a journalist asked if he would push his appointments of government ministers under attack for their morality, Yoon said he would take care of the issue in his office.
When his predecessors stayed at the Blue House, reporters could not see such casual moments. They could not meet presidents on their way to their office from their residence inside the presidential compound. When a president presided over a meeting or held an event, only a select few were allowed to cover it. Reporters could have a Q&A session at press conferences or briefings only. Former presidents Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in were notorious for not having press conferences often.
Many people criticized the new president for rushing to relocate the presidential office to the defense ministry in Yongsan. But if he has contact with reporters as often as he did Wednesday, he can put such criticisms to rest. If he keeps meeting with the press down the road, he can clear the public’s lingering concerns about his lack of communication skills and effectively deliver his reactions to whatever issues he wants to talks about. It is a tradition for U.S. presidents to answer questions from White House correspondents when the commander-in-chief moves to the heliport.
The new government reportedly plans to create an exclusive corridor for Yoon to use on the second floor of the ministry building. Such passageways could be needed to safeguard a head of state. Yet Yoon must keep his promise to “meet people on the first floor to communicate with them whenever the need arises.” It couldn’t be better if he holds a televised presidential briefing for the people regularly.
The new president must report to work from his apartment in southern Seoul until his official residence in Hannam-dong near the defense ministry is built. Even after the construction of the official residence is completed, he still has to move to his office in the ministry building from his official residence. The new president decided to relocate the presidential office to end the legacy of imperial presidency. He pledged to have a roundtable debate with his aides in his office. We hope Yoon shows a new path for presidential communication instead of choosing a “selective silence” by posting controversial messages on social media as his predecessors did.