Rush to ditch Blue House leaves Yoon with convoluted commute

Posted on : 2022-03-23 16:48 KST Modified on : 2022-03-23 16:48 KST
Upon inauguration, it appears Yoon will living in Seocho, working in Tongui, and using the Blue House bunker for crisis response
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol presides over a meeting of the presidential transition team at its office in Seoul’s Tongui neighborhood on March 22. (pool photo)
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol presides over a meeting of the presidential transition team at its office in Seoul’s Tongui neighborhood on March 22. (pool photo)

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has decided to continue using his office in Seoul’s Tongui neighborhood even after his inauguration on May 10 while also using the Blue House’s crisis management center — an underground bunker — to respond to crisis situations.

Until the relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan is completed, Yoon has no choice but to use the Blue House’s underground bunker in case of a crisis. Despite Yoon’s strong will to “never set foot in the Blue House,” he will be keeping these temporary measures in place for about two months until the new presidential office is completely ready.

Yoon will also commute from his home in the Seocho neighborhood to his office in Jongno District until the transfer of the office to Yongsan is complete. This means that the president's work and living bases will be divided into three: Tongui, Seocho, and the Blue House. As a result, some are raising concerns that it will be difficult for the president to respond in a swift manner in case of an emergency.

“It's too far to get to the Ministry of National Defense from his office in Tongui, so if there's an emergency, [Yoon] has no choice but to use the crisis management center at the Blue House,” a key official on the presidential transition committee told the Hankyoreh over the phone on Tuesday.

“The Blue House’s crisis management center will need to be used for at least two months, considering the time needed for moving and renovating the office,” the official added.

Yoon’s camp intends to open all the Blue House facilities to the public except the underground bunker from May 10, when his term as president officially begins.

The same official said there’s no reason not to open up the Blue House to the public since Yoon will not be living or working there.

“There will be some safety-related issues regarding [people] entering certain facilities, so we will have to check that in advance, but facilities that don’t [require the same level of security] will be opened [without major adjustments],” the official said.

On Tuesday, when President Moon Jae-in suggested that Yoon should ensure time for ample preparation before he relocates the presidential office, Yoon responded by saying he could tolerate delays related to moving the office but would not be able to stomach breaking his promise to the public.

Although Yoon’s camp said that they would try to minimize the period in which the president’s bases were split into three locations while his office in Yongsan was being set up, concerns continue to mount. Critics say that the president-elect is creating worries by voluntarily taking an unstable route amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula as a result of the government transition.

Speaking with the Hankyoreh on Tuesday, Kim Jong-dae, a military expert and former Justice Party lawmaker said it was “absurd” that Yoon would not be living in the Blue House while still using its underground bunker and helipad.

“Immediately after the inauguration of the president, a time when many foreign envoys come to visit and when the security situation is sensitive, the president will not be in the presidential office but instead in the outskirts [of Seoul],” Kim said.

“The security at the office in the Tongui neighborhood is weak and, because it’s small, there is not enough space for staff,” Kim added, saying it was a situation in which the president would be isolated and “unable to organically connect with the government.”

Yoon's 12-kilometer daily commute from his home in the Seocho neighborhood, south of the river, to his office in the Tongui neighborhood is also expected to increase inconvenience to citizens.

Yoon’s spokesperson, Kim Eun-hye, said at a briefing on Tuesday that there was a “high chance” that the president-elect would be commuting from Seocho.

“We will carefully consider each person’s feelings so that the public does not have to suffer any inconveniences [regarding traffic issues],” Yoon’s spokesperson added.

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

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