Stop offering residences to top gov’t officials

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Stop offering residences to top gov’t officials

Mount Bugak that towered over the shrouded Blue House has been rediscovered by trekkers after the presidential compound was fully open to the public after President Yoon Suk-yeol relocated it to Yongsan. But the walking trail behind the Blue House suddenly became resealed earlier this month by the Cultural Heritage Administration. The trail had been most popular as it had been off-limits since the 1968 infiltration of North Korean commandos attempting to assassinate then-president Park Chung Hee.

As many as 3,000 citizens have used the hilly path on the weekends since its opening last month.

The closure came after the Constitutional Court ordered it, citing privacy and noise issues due to the crowd around the Blue House after it opened to the public. The court placed the interest of its head Yoo Nam-seok before the civilians. The court did not seek other means such as installing a wall between the court chief’s official residence and the trail.

Civilians are calling for the abolition of official residences for top officials as the practice is a remnant of the past authoritarian governments.

The official residence of the head of the court was used to house a royal palace adjacent to the main Gyeongbok Palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The residence was owned by a nephew of Empress Myeongseong, the wife of the last Joseon Emperor Gojong, and later used as a secret villa for President Park Chung Hee. It was renovated as the official residence for the head of the Constitutional Court in 1993 after the court was established in 1988 to address court rulings from the perspective of our Constitution.

The Constitutional Court was among the byproducts of the Constitutional reform in 1987 to end military and authoritarian regimes. But its location and management remain as a legacy of the past authoritarian days. The residential premise commands a lofty space of 2,810 square meters (30,247 square feet) in addition to the greenery of 8,522 square meters. It comes with a personal cook and butler. How much of citizens’ taxes goes into the maintenance of the glitzy residence remains confidential for security reasons. Due to the secretive management of the residence, it raises suspicion over tax squandering.

It takes just a five-minute ride from the residence to the court. The Constitutional Court is not a site of national security and does not deal with urgent issues either. Offering official residences to senior officials for free must stop, except for the president and prime minister. The Constitutional Court chief must set the first example.
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