Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

S Korean president shuns Blue House

SHARING TERM?Moon Jae-in said that he would ‘share the president’s imperial powers as much as I can’ and make a system that can prevent unchecked power

AP, SEOUL

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is so eager to distance himself from his disgraced, jailed predecessor that he plans to partially abandon one of the job’s major perks: the mountainside presidential palace, the Blue House.

Addressing the nation after taking the oath of office on Wednesday, Moon vowed to eventually move out of the palace that dominates downtown Seoul, where every modern South Korean president has lived and worked since the end of World War II.

It is also closely associated with former South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who grew up there as the daughter of former South Korean president Park Chung-hee.

Moon instead plans to commute to an office in the nearby streets of Gwanghwamun, near the square where millions took part in protests for months before Park Geun-hye was removed from office and arrested in March on corruption charges.

“After preparations are finished, I will step out of the Blue House and open the era of the Gwanghwamun president,” Moon said in his speech, without offering a specific timeline. “I will be a president willing to communicate with people at any time. The president will directly brief the media on important issues. I will stop by the market after leaving work so I can talk candidly with citizens. I will sometimes hold large debate events at Gwanghwamun Square.”

Moon’s plans to abandon precedent, and, partially, the Blue House, are part of an attempt to be a more down-to-earth president. In other words, the opposite of what critics saw in Park Geun-hye’s presidency.

Park Geun-hye was described by many as aloof and autocratic, and was notorious for refusing to take questions during the few news conferences she attended.

So his new approach was clear when Moon introduced his prime minster and spy chief nominees at a news conference on Wednesday at the Blue House and his nominees answered questions.

Moon spent his first night as president in his private Seoul home as workers were furnishing the Blue House’s residential space.

He began his second day by shaking hands and taking selfies with some of the dozens of people gathered near his home yesterday morning, telling one of them: “Wow, you take good photos,” before heading to the Blue House in his presidential vehicle.

Park Geun-hye’s life was strongly linked to the huge palace.

She lived in the Blue House twice, first as the daughter of Park Chung-hee, who moved there in 1963, two years after he staged a coup and took control of the nation.

Park Geun-hye left the Blue House following the assassination of her father in 1979. However, following a meteoric political career, she returned after winning the presidency in December 2012, thanks to overwhelming support from older voters who remembered her father as a hero who rescued the nation from poverty, despite a record of civilian oppression.

When massive protests against her started late last year, she retreated to the Blue House, rarely appearing in public.

Moon expects to find a much smaller presidential residence near Gwanghwamun.

However, he will not entirely abandon the Blue House.

Officials from his presidential camp have told reporters that Moon will continue to use the Blue House’s underground rooms for important national security meetings.

He will also continue to use the Blue House’s helicopter pad and also the Yeongbingwan Hall to greet foreign guests, they said.

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