Cheong Wa Dae voices concerns over Yoon’s plan to relocate presidential office

March 21, 2022

 The office of President Moon Jae-in voiced concerns Monday about President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s plan to move the presidential office out of Cheong Wa Dae, saying it could leave a security vacuum at a time of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for public communication, made the remark to reporters after a National Security Council meeting, saying it is unreasonable to relocate the defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the presidential office in such a short period of time before Yoon’s May 10 inauguration.

“Now is the time to unite security capabilities, as the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula is escalating,” Park said. “Therefore, it is necessary to look sufficiently into concern that sudden, unprepared relocations of the defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Cheong Wa Dae crisis management center could cause a security vacuum and confusion.”

Park said Cheong Wa Dae will convey its concerns to Yoon’s transition team.

Yoon’s spokesperson expressed regret and said they will stick to the relocation plans.

“If President Moon Jae-in refuses to cooperate on an essential part of the most significant project in the transfer of power, there is no way to force him,” Kim Eun-hye said in a statement.

Upon taking office, she said, Yoon will continue to work from his current temporary office in Tongeui-dong near Cheong Wa Dae to handle pressing state affairs, making clear once again that Yoon will not move into Cheong Wa Dae.

“At the stroke of midnight on May 10, President-elect Yoon will fulfill his promise to fully open Cheong Wa Dae without fail,” she added.

Yoon officially announced his decision to move the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae to what is now the defense ministry building, saying he wants the top office to move out of a “symbol of imperial power” and get closer to the people.

The relocation of Cheong Wa Dae was one of Yoon’s key campaign pledges.

(4th LD) Cheong Wa Dae voices concerns over Yoon's plan to relocate presidential office - 1

Under Yoon’s plan, the defense ministry will be moved to the JCS building inside the ministry compound in Seoul’s central district of Yongsan, and the JCS will be moved ultimately to a command center near Seoul.

“Unless there is an urgent reason to be pressed for time, it would be reasonable to push for relocation when all of the defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the presidential office are better prepared,” Park said.

On Sunday, North Korea fired four suspected shots from its multiple rocket launchers into the Yellow Sea, the latest show of force amid concern that Pyongyang could test-fire a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile at any time.

Moon plans to hold a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, but a budget proposal for the relocation of the presidential office is unlikely to be put on the table, a senior Cheong Wa Dae official said.

As Moon’s office voiced concerns over Yoon’s plan to relocate the presidential office, relations between outgoing and incoming administrations are expected to be further strained.

Moon and Yoon had planned to hold a meeting this past Wednesday, but the meeting was called off at the last minute, as working-level, pre-meeting discussions had not been completed yet.

Both Cheong Wa Dae and Yoon’s transition team said they would reschedule the Moon-Yoon meeting.

Local media have reported the initial meeting was called off due to disagreements on the issue of pardoning former President Lee Myung-bak, who is serving a prison sentence for corruption, and appointing personnel to key public posts whose terms are set to end.