President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks at a luncheon with victims and families bereaved by disasters in Seoul’s Yongsan District on April 19. (pool photo)
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has abandoned plans to move into the Army chief of staff’s official residence in Seoul’s Hannam neighborhood, citing the excessive renovations that would be necessary.
The decision came after Yoon previously selected the site as his new official residence and earmarked remodeling expenses for it.
With his plans for the relocation of the presidential office proceeding in a sloppy manner, Yoon now finds himself having to find a new official residence with less than 20 days left until his inauguration.
“The Army chief of staff’s official residence is a 47-year-old building that leaks when it rains and would need to be more or less rebuilt,” an official with the presidential transition committee said Tuesday.
“Since there are so many more things in need of repair than expected, we’re currently weighing several different plans on where [else] to move,” they added. One alternative that is reportedly being strongly considered is the official residence of the minister of foreign affairs, also in Hannam, which was one of the initially announced prospective sites.
Eleven days after the election, Yoon announced plans on March 20 for the relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan. At the time, he said he planned to use the Army chief of staff’s residence as his new official residence.
Yoon Han-hong, a National Assembly member and team leader for the Blue House relocation task force, said the construction of a new official residence within the Ministry of National Defense complex was also being considered.
“There are six official residences in Hannam, and [Yoon] decides to make some renovations and use the residence of the Army chief of staff, who stays at [the military headquarters in] Gyeryongdae most of the time and only uses [the Hannam residence] one or two days a week,” he explained.
The government also allocated a budget for the estimated 2.5 billion won (US$2 million) in remodeling costs for the Army chief of staff’s residence.
The hasty decision to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan has resulted in issues with the separate locations of the president’s official residence and office. But Yoon was optimistic at the time, stating, “We’re anticipating it would take three to five minutes to control the traffic and arrive [from Hannam to Yongsan], and if we make appropriate use of time, I don’t expect there will be any major inconveniences for the public.”
But the decision to scrap the remodeling plans for the Army chief of staff’s residence with inauguration day fast approaching means there is a greater likelihood that Yoon will have to remain at his residence in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood and continue commuting to the presidential office in Yongsan even after he takes office.
The distance between Yoon’s Seocho home and the office in Yongsan is 6.5 kilometers, or roughly 14 minutes by car.
By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter
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