South Korean President-elect Yoon Seok-youl held a press conference on March 20, announcing that the presidential office would be moved from the Blue House to the Ministry of National Defense headquarters building in the Ministry of Defense office area in Yongsan District, Seoul and that the Blue House would be open to the public. The proposal would break with decades of tradition in South Korea.
Yin Xiyue, who narrowly won the March 9 election, also said on Sunday that he would further move the presidential residence to the residence of the army chief of staff in Hannam-dong. Many business executives and diplomats live in this area.
In her campaign, Yin Xiyue promised to move the presidential office to a location more accessible to the public and to open the Blue House to the public. However, he has said that the location and design of the Blue House have led to criticism that South Korea’s leader has been cut off from the crowd.
Agence France-Presse reported that Yin Xiyue’s plan caused mixed reactions from South Koreans. Even his supporters urged him to minimize the inconvenience caused by the new office and residence to nearby businesses and people. However, after some officials of the opposing Democratic Party accused Yin Xiyue of being influenced by the feng shui doctrine in China, it also sparked a heated debate among some feng shui masters.
A feng shui master once said that the location of the Blue House is unlucky. In South Korea’s transition to a democratic society over the past 25 years, four of the six presidents have either been imprisoned or committed suicide after leaving office.
Yin Xiyue’s team disputed the claim that it was affected by feng shui considerations, insisting that the move would improve public access and communication with staff. They also said that the Blue House had been turned into a “palace,” isolated by forests and strict security. Yin Xiyue said that the relocation was a decision made for the country’s future consideration and better performing her duties.
The current President Moon Jae-in also said that he would move out of the Blue House after taking office but gave up due to security and logistical reasons.
South Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Planning estimated that the relocation of the President’s Office, the relocation of the Ministry of National Defense to the former Korea-US Joint Command Building, etc., as well as the cost of renovating the new premises, are as high as 40 million US dollars.
The Associated Press reported that at the Blue House presidential residence, the offices of the presidential staff and the media briefing room are separate buildings from the presidential office, several hundred meters apart, and staff sometimes have to ride bicycles or cars to the presidential office.
Yin Xiyue said that a large public park would be set up near the new presidential office, and ordinary people would be able to see his office up close. He said there are also plans to open a media center where journalists can be seen frequently.
According to South Korean media reports, 11 former chairpersons of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a letter to Yin Xiyue’s transition team expressing their opposition to the relocation plan. They said that would allow the enemy to strike both the presidential office and the military headquarters.
Yin Xiyue said on Sunday that he understands the concerns regarding the voices of doubt, but once he enters the Blue House, which the outside world has criticized as a symbol of imperial power, it will be challenging to get out. Therefore, it is right to decide and push for relocation quickly.