© Reuters. South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a press conference about his relocation plans from the presidential office, at the office of his transition team in Seoul, South Korea, March 20, 2022. Jung Yeon-je/Pool via REUTERS
By Josh Smith and Minwoo Park
SEOUL (Reuters) – Elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, breaking with decades of tradition, said on Sunday he will move the presidential office from the Blue House to the grounds of the Ministry of Defense, a move estimated to cost $ cost 40 million.
Yoon, who narrowly won the bitter election on March 9, promised to move the office to a more accessible location and open the Blue House in Seoul to the public.
He also said on Sunday that he would move his official residence to Hannam-dong, an area where many businessmen and diplomats live.
Yoon’s plans have received mixed reactions from South Koreans, as even supporters urge Yoon to limit the inconvenience to people and businesses near the new locations.
The Blue House movement sparked a fierce debate among feng shui experts after some rival Democratic Party officials accused Yoon of being influenced by masters of the ancient form of geomancy that originated in China.
The headquarters of the Department of Defense is located in the Yongsan district of the capital, next to a huge former US military base that has been largely closed and moved south of the city.
“It’s hard, but it’s a decision I made for the future of the country,” Yoon said at a news conference. “I sincerely ask the people to understand that this is not just a displacement of the place, but my determination to serve the people, work well and keep my promise with the people.”
Feng shui masters have said that the location of the Blue House was unfavorable. Four of the six presidents in the country’s 25-year democratic history have been imprisoned or killed themselves after leaving office.
Yoon’s team rejected all suggestions that the move was affected by such considerations, saying it would improve public access and communication with assistants, and that the Blue House executive mansion had become a “royal palace.” isolated and enclosed by woods and tight security.
Outgoing President Moon Jae-in had also said he would find a new office, but abandoned the plan for security and logistical reasons.
Yoon said the Defense Department grounds are already well equipped with national security and command facilities, making it easy to get there without compromising security or hindering residents.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance estimates the move will cost 49.6 billion won ($40.1 million), including the relocation of the Ministry of Defense and renovation of both the new office and official residence.
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