The rush to move the presidency from South Korea is jeopardizing the security of the outgoing government

South Korea's President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol holds a press conference in Seoul on plans to relocate his presidential office
FILE PHOTO: South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a news conference to address his presidential office relocation plans at his Transition Team office in Seoul, South Korea March 20, 2022.Jung Yeon-je/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 21, 2022

By Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – The administration of outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that his successor’s rush to move the presidential office and official residence could “create a security vacuum and confusion” at a time of tensions with North Korea.

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol announced Sunday that he will move the president’s office from the Blue House to the Defense Ministry compound, a move that will cost an estimated $40 million. Yoon was elected in a close vote on March 9 and said he wants to make the move immediately after his May 10 inauguration.

Moon’s spokesman Park Soo-hyun said it was “impossible” to relocate the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the offices of the President and Secretaries, and the Security Service in the short period leading up to Yoon’s inauguration.

“The security crisis on the Korean peninsula is escalating, and a sudden and unprepared move … could create a security vacuum and confusion,” Park said at a briefing.

A Yoon spokeswoman expressed her regret, saying that if Moon refuses to cooperate, there is no way to force the move, but that Yoon will keep his promise to open the Blue House to the public starting May 10 , while carrying out his duties in his current office.

Yoon’s People Power Party accused the Moon government of changing its position after initially saying it hoped Yoon would implement the promise, which reflected one made by Moon before abandoning it for security and logistical reasons .

“The President-elect had already reviewed potential security issues that the Blue House raised,” the party said in a statement responding to Park’s comments, and called on Moon’s office to help allocate a budget and participate in the plan to work with

Park said the move would be more sensible if it weren’t rushed. Moon’s government will share its concerns with Yoon’s transition team and take an official position after further consultations, he added.

Yoon’s team said the Blue House is a symbol of South Korea’s “imperial presidency,” and a move would improve public access and communication with aid workers. They have dismissed critics’ claims that Yoon was influenced by concerns that the Blue House is in an “awkward” location.

A petition uploaded to the President’s Office website on Thursday targeting Yoon’s move plan had garnered more than 340,000 signatures as of Monday.

Conservative Yoon is expected to take a tougher line against North Korea than Moon, a member of the liberal Democratic Party who has made the standoff with Pyongyang a key part of his agenda. South Korean presidents serve for a single five-year term.

Tensions have risen after North Korea started the year with an unprecedented spate of missile tests, and Pyongyang has suggested it could test ICBMs or nuclear weapons for the first time since 2017.

(Reporting by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin, Editing by Ed Osmond and Bernadette Baum) The rush to move the presidency from South Korea is jeopardizing the security of the outgoing government

Bobby Allyn

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