President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to supporters during a visit to a local market in Busan on April 22. (pool photo)
For his first month in office, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol will likely be passing through the US military base on his way to and from his presidential office in Yongsan.
The original plan had been for Yoon to move into the Army chief of staff’s official residence in Seoul’s Hannam neighborhood. But it appears that Yoon will spend roughly a month remaining at his current home in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood after deciding to take over the current residence of Korea’s foreign minister and make it his presidential residence.
According to accounts from sources with Yoon’s presidential transition committee on Sunday, Yoon is considering a primary route from his Seocho home that would take him across Banpo Bridge and through the US military base to arrive at his presidential office in Yongsan.
The distance from Yoon’s Seocho residence to his Yongsan office is 6.5 kilometers (4 miles), or roughly 14 minutes by car.
After Yoon takes office, local police stations in Seocho, Yongsan, and other locations along his route will be controlling traffic through the use of signals to match his vehicle’s movements.
“In terms of security principles, it’s obviously dangerous to have just one route, so there will be two to three routes prepared for the president to travel,” a police official said.
“Currently, [Yoon] is commuting between his home in Seocho District and his transition committee office [in Jongno District], but there have not been any issues with congestion,” the official added.
“The Ministry of National Defense complex is closer [to Seocho] than the transition committee office, so we’re not anticipating any issues as long as he can avoid rush hour.”
While the police traffic controls may make the trip shorter, the transition committee is predicting that Yoon may need to travel through the US military base to avoid creating traffic problems for the public.
“We’re currently considering three to four different routes in order to minimize the inconvenience to the public,” a committee member explained.
Another committee member said that discussions with the US military on passing through the base had “already been completed.”
Some observers voiced concerns that if Yoon does pass through the base with the US military’s cooperation on his way to and from work, that could have a negative impact on later discussions on the base being returned to South Korea.
In a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh on Sunday, Lee Tae-ho, director of the Center for Peace and Disarmament at the civic group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, said, “If the president is passing through a US military base with US military cooperation when he travels to and from work, it’s self-evident that it would not be beneficial in terms of various issues, including discussions on environmental contamination and relocation of the Yongsan military base.”
By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Park Su-ji, staff reporter
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