President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol addresses a presidential transition committee workshop held at the Seoul Startup Hub in Mapo District, Seoul, on March 26. (Yonhap News)
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol ordered the examination of plans to build a new official presidential residence at the Ministry of National Defense (MND) complex in Seoul’s Yongsan District, it has been learned.
Yoon had already been planning to relocate the presidential office to the complex. The latest news suggests that he plans to indeed go ahead with building a new presidential residence, which he hinted might be “considered” after the office’s relocation when announcing the planned move on March 20.
This would also tack more expenses onto the costs of relocating the presidential office, which Yoon said a week earlier would amount to 49.6 billion won, or around US$40.4 million.
In its investigation Sunday, the Hankyoreh found that Yoon’s Blue House relocation task force had recently reported to Yoon that it would “cause issues for the public” if he were to commute from the nearby Hannam neighborhood in Seoul.
The task force suggested that the new residence would allow for more efficient execution of governance duties, while citing the increased security and escort costs when the office and residence are in separate locations.
When the plan for relocating the presidential office to Yongsan was finalized, Yoon said he intended to use the Army chief of staff’s official residence in Hannam as his presidential residence — but the task force suggested that even that approach would cause inefficiencies in terms of guard duties.
In response, Yoon reportedly said, “I may have to have a small [residence] built inside [of the MND complex] when the conditions allow for it.”
An official with Yoon’s presidential transition committee explained, “Even if we assume it will take at least three to five minutes to travel between the Hannam residence and the presidential office at the MND, that restricts [Yoon’s] freedom of movement.”
“It’s a set-up that would inevitably create an inconvenience for the public if [Yoon] arrives early in the morning or a bit later than usual,” the official said.
“President-elect Yoon agreed that he could not burden the public with that inconvenience, and that is why they are examining the construction of a new residence,” the official added.
The transition committee plans to have the new presidential residence built on the site of an MND annex near the presidential office, with the construction process expected to take around one to two years.
The new plan means the costs of the presidential office relocation are likely to grow higher.
When he announced his plans to relocate the office to Yongsan, Yoon said the effort would cost a total of 49.6 billion won, including 35.321 billion won for the relocation itself along with 11.835 billion for the relocation of the site’s current occupant and 2.5 billion won for remodeling of the official residence in Hannam.
But the office relocation costs snowball even more when the cost of constructing a new presidential residence is added to the bill, along with the minimum cost of 120 billion won for the relocation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) headquarters to the Capital Defense Command compound in southern Seoul’s Namtaeryeong area.
“The president-elect shuns big and extravagant things,” a transition committee official said, adding that the “cost of the new presidential residence’s construction will depend on the scale.”
By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter
Please direct questions or comments to [firstname.lastname@example.org]