The Korea Herald


How will Yoon relocate Cheong Wa Dae?

Defense Ministry building in Yongsan emerges as strong candidate

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : March 15, 2022 - 15:15

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Defense Ministry building in Yongsan-gu (Yonhap) Defense Ministry building in Yongsan-gu (Yonhap)
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol appears on course to fulfill his pledge to relocate the presidential office, with two locations in Seoul being discussed as potential candidates.

Initially, he proposed setting up the presidential office in the Gwanghwamun area, but due to practical challenges, the Defense Ministry building in Yongsan-gu has emerged as a strong alternative, officials said.

During the election, Yoon pledged to relocate the presidential office from the isolated Cheong Wa Dae to the Seoul Government Complex, which is in the more central Gwanghwamun area and business district nearby in Jongno-gu, Seoul. This pledge was designed to bring the president’s office closer to the public. However, due to security and traffic issues, he is now seeking alternatives. Earlier in 2017, the Moon Jae-in administration also made a similar pledge but gave up due to the same problems.

Yoon’s office told The Korea Herald that the Defense Ministry building in Yongsan, a district in central Seoul, is considered “a strong alternative” to the Gwanghwamun area.

“We are weighing between the Defense Ministry building in Yongsan and the building of the Foreign Ministry (near the Seoul Government Complex),” the official said. “The Seoul Government Complex building was excluded because it has to be used with other ministries, in which case only half of the building can be used.”

The Defense Ministry building has strong advantages. If the president’s formal working space is moved to the area, security-related issues are expected to be resolved with ease. This is because there are already helicopter takeoff and landing facilities in the Ministry of National Defense building and underground bunkers connected to the building.

In terms of the presidential residence, the official residence of either the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Army, Navy and Air Chief of Staff is likely to be used.

The relocation of the Ministry of National Defense is not being considered, local media reported, quoting an official from Yoon’s office. Yoon believes that there is enough space to accommodate both defense and presidential staff in the new and old office buildings, and would only require minor remodeling.

Alongside the relocation, President-elect Yoon is planning to streamline Cheong Wa Dae’s sprawling organizational structure.

During his rally, Yoon proposed to abolish senior secretaries, senior civil affairs offices and the second affiliated office, and to reduce 30 percent of Cheong Wa Dae personnel.

On Monday, Yoon expressed his intention to “abolish” the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in the presidential office. He is also expected to announce plans for downsizing Cheong Wa Dae staff soon.

President Moon Jae-in’s office currently comprises a chief of staff, a policy chief, and a national security chief with eight senior secretaries and two deputy heads of the National Security Office. There are 443 employees in the presidential office secretariat alone.

Yoon plans to reduce the number of staff members by 30 percent, and set up a public-private partnership committee by field to collect policy demands from public officials, professors and the media.

To ensure the autonomy of each ministry, the government plans to implement a dedicated prime minister and ministerial system to empower the Cabinet.