Amid criticism over wasted budget and inappropriate use of manpower, President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Kun-hee moved into the new official residence located in Hannam-dong, central Seoul, Monday, six months after Yoon's inauguration.
The presidential office said that Yoon and his wife moved from their private residence in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, to the Hannam-dong residence on Monday.
It took nearly 10 minutes for the president to travel from his home in Seocho-dong to the presidential office in Yongsan even with traffic control, but the move to Hannam-dong may shorten the commute to five minutes, according to the presidential office.
This relocation is an extension of the Cheong Wa Dae relocation plan that Yoon promised when he was a presidential candidate.
Since the inauguration, the presidential office has been working on remodeling the Foreign Minister's official residence. But the plan led to continuous construction and remodeling plan, as the Foreign Minister’s official residence and office has to be rearranged as well, sparking criticism that public money was being wasted.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea refused to approve the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s additional budget plan for a new reception room at the general meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Monday.
The Foreign Ministry has already used over 2.6 billion won ($1.87 million) on relocating the minister’s official residence and office, which includes a budget for remodeling of new residence and office, relocation of the foreign guest reception and banquet hall, and remodeling of the reception room. The Ministry applied for another budget to cover the cost of relocating the reception room for foreign guests, and the opposition party rejected it.
The opposition party claimed that using the relocation budget as the part of Foreign Ministry budget was a way of disguising the cost of relocating the official presidential residence.
In addition, the official residences of presidential chief of staff Kim Dae-ki, and Kim Yong-hyun, head of the Presidential Security Service, also have to be relocated as they have to be available to assist the president at all times. The chief of staff will move to the official residence of the deputy commander of the US Forces Korea, while the Security Service chief will move to the residence of Commandant of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps.
Also, the main opposition party claims that the relocation of presidential residence caused the lack of manpower during the Itaewon disaster as more police officers were allocated around the new Hannam-dong presidential residence, which was vacant at the time.
Ahn Gwi-ryeong, a deputy spokesperson of Democratic Party of Korea said, "About 200 police officers were deployed to protect an empty house that the president and his wife delayed moving into,” through a written briefing on Saturday.
She continued criticizing that police personnel were fixed at the new residence in Hannam-dong, a private residence in Seocho-dong and the presidential office in Yongsan, while people in Itaewon were in need of police services.
Kim Jong-chul, deputy chief of the Presidential Security Service, denied there had been any inappropriate deployment, saying, "As I know, officers in charge of security service, who guard national facilities, are organized separately from the police who perform other duties," at the meeting of Special Committee on Budget and Accounts on Monday. Kim claimed that there is no link between the officers deployed at the facilities for the president and the Itaewon disaster.
During the parilamentary audit on the presidential office, Tuesday, Kim again denied the accusation, saying that the number of police personnel around the Hannam-dong official residence was fewer than 200.