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Yoon envisions 2nd presidential office, relocation of parliament to Sejong

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : April 2, 2024 - 14:36

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The presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul (GettyImages) The presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul (GettyImages)

President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday his administration was moving to establish a new presidential office and a parliament branch in Sejong, the de facto administrative capital of South Korea.

The new branch of the presidential office, currently located in Yongsan-gu of Seoul near the Yongsan Garrison of the US Forces Korea, will contribute to "breaking down barriers between the presidential office and the government" and at the same time boost Yoon's public engagement, Yoon said in a Cabinet meeting held Tuesday.

Yoon also said the idea was in line with his decision -- for the first time in South Korea's modern history -- to relocate the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae to the current one in Yongsan.

Yoon's decision in 2022 upon his inauguration enabled "close communication between all staff in the office at all times by using a single building," he said, unlike in Cheong Wa Dae where former presidents and their aides worked in four different buildings.

The relocation came along with a 51.7-billion-won ($38.2 million) price tag, according to the Finance Ministry in October 2022, which drew speculation from the opposition bloc that the plan cost the country over 1 trillion won.

Plans for the Sejong branch, along with the relocation of the National Assembly from the capital Seoul to Sejong over 110 kilometers south of the capital, will empower the city's role as the practical administrative capital, as pledged during the election campaigning, according to Yoon.

"Sejong will play a central role in rebalancing national development," Yoon told a Cabinet, adding that empowering Sejong will open the way for his administration to achieve its policy goal of allowing nonmetropolitan regions to take the lead in national development.

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting held in the Government Complex Sejong on Tuesday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting held in the Government Complex Sejong on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Han Dong-hoon, Yoon's political lieutenant and current interim leader of the People Power Party, also brought up the issue of the setup of key administrative buildings outside Seoul.

During his visit to Sejong on Tuesday to endorse conservative candidates for the April 10 general election, Han said the National Assembly relocation to Sejong will "herald a completely new start" for the area "as the center of South Korea."

This echoed Han's remarks in March 27 in a press conference that he would "put an end to Yeouido political culture through a complete relocation of the National Assembly to Sejong, and turn the empty land into Seoul's new landmark."

Following Han's remarks, Yoon's office said in a statement on March 27 that it has asked the government bodies in charge to speed up the process of creating the second presidential office outside of Seoul.

The statement also showed Yoon had earlier expressed his view that the parliament building's proximity to the Sejong Government Complex could pave the way for parliamentarism in Korea and boost the nation's administrative efficiency. Fourteen out of 19 ministries, plus Prime Minister Han Duck-soo's office, are based in Sejong.

Also during his opening remarks, Yoon ordered Finance Minister Choi Sang-mok to estimate the budget to help the country achieve medical reform after coordinating with Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong, Science Minister Lee Jong-ho and Education Minister Lee Ju-ho, while stressing the need for "aggressive fiscal support."

Yoon also ordered the Cabinet to indefinitely inject state funds to stabilize the grocery price, saying the 150-billion-won budget support has stopped short of "quashing people's anxiety." On Tuesday, the consumer price index in March rose 3.1 percent from the previous year, according to Statistics Korea, as the price of apples and pears jumped nearly 90 percent year-on-year despite the price stabilization plans laid out by the Yoon administration in mid-February.