Was the Blue House bugged?

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Was the Blue House bugged?

Chang Se-jeong

The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.

Although the “era of the Blue House” officially ended on May 10, 2022, the controversy surrounding the relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan continues. Recently, another controversy flared over a plan by the presidential office to build a new guest house in the presidential compound. After criticisms rose over the plan to spend 87.8 billion won ($61.3 million) to build a new guest house, President Yoon Suk-yeol scrapped it immediately.

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party (DP) contend that the next president should move back in to the Blue House after Yoon’s presidency. The idea seems quite unrealistic because taking back what was returned to the people is not easy.

And yet, two questions linger over the process on how Yoon relocated the presidential office. First, why did Yoon refuse to use the Blue House? Second, why did former President Moon Jae-in — who had vowed to relocate the presidential office to Gwanghwamun if he were elected president — suddenly change his mind and show an obsession to keep the Blue House as the presidential office by highlighting concerns about national security vacuum?

As a presidential candidate, Yoon Suk-yeol pledged in January that he would end the use of the Blue House and open the era of a presidential office in the Gwanghwamun. At that time, many people did not trust his announcement. But on March 21, when he was the president-elect, he made it official that he will not use the Blue House for one day and he kept his words. His reasoning was that he wants to end the era of the Blue House, a symbol of lack of communication between the president and the people. Yoon did return the 62-acre space to the people.

Some raised a conspiracy theory that his wife Kim Keon-hee insisted on the relocation based on the advice of fortune teller. Given a landmark stone remaining in the Blue House which says the site is the most fortunate land in Korea, the argument against the site for bad luck seems groundless.

Still questionable is why former president Moon stressed the value of the Blue House at the end of his presidency. Throughout his presidency, Moon kept a low profile to North Korea, although Pyongyang insulted him frequently. Many said it was nonsense that Moon stressed the importance of national security.

During his two presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2017, Moon made pledges that he will relocate the presidential office to Gwanghwamun but failed to keep the promise. After his successor moved quickly to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan, Moon must have felt upset, some observers said. Others said Moon was trying to hinder Yoon from drawing up a budget for the relocation.

Such interpretations still have their limits and they cannot resolve the fundamental question. But a new argument has been made to explain the confrontation between Yoon and Moon — and why Yoon has decided to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan. 
President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday answers questions from reporters about his overseas trip at the presidential office in Yongsan.

“Throughout his presidential campaign, Yoon showed extreme distrust toward the Moon administration, which was controlled by the former student activists who are pro-North Korea and has pro-juche ideology,” said a political source. “After Yoon was briefed by the transition team that the security had been compromised so deeply that the inside information of the Blue House was continuously leaked to North Korea, Yoon decided to relocate the presidential office.”

“I was told that an intelligence network discovered a case in which a secret discussion that took place in the Blue House was discussed in North Korea the next day,” said an intelligence source well-informed about the Moon Blue House. If that is true, it is shocking.

Intelligence on North Korea are collected through human intelligence (Humint), signals intelligence (Sigint) and technical intelligence (Techint). During the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, secret information shared between Seoul and Washington was leaked to Pyongyang immediately after the sharing, and the United States stopped sharing additional intelligence after it detected the leak. If a similar incident had taken place during the Moon presidency, it must be investigated.

Another intelligence expert said information is often leaked by an insider or intercepted by communication devices or bugs placed inside a building.

“As information leaks were frequent in the Moon Blue House, Yoon’s presidential security team had left all equipment and devices there before relocating the presidential office to Yongsan on May 10,” the source said.

The truth will be found in the future. But the remarks by the source clearly shows that President Yoon treated the Blue House of Moon as a “contaminated” space.
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