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Moon charm offensive gets lots of notice

May 15,2017
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After a two-hour hike with about 50 reporters on a trail starting from the Blue House to Mount Bugak on Saturday, President Moon Jae-in visits the Blue House cafeteria to have a lunch among reporters and the general staff of the Blue House. [YONHAP]
President Moon Jae-in declared Friday that he would use Yeomingwan, where his senior secretaries work, as his primary office instead of the main Blue House building in line with a promise to be more communicative.

The main building of the presidential compound is 500 meters (0.3 miles) away from senior secretaries, which has been blamed for presidents’ isolation in the past.

To brief a president, presidential secretaries often ride vehicles to get to the main building. The issue of a lack of communication between a president and his or her staff was especially acute for the government of Park Geun-hye, who rarely interacted with anyone beyond her close inner circle, the so-called “three doorknob” aides. Park’s isolation contributed to her dramatic downfall. She is currently in a jail cell awaiting trial on 13 counts of bribery and abuse of power.

Yeomingwan is comprised of three buildings that are home to the office of the presidential chief of staff and the national security chief. By relocating the president’s main office to Yeomingwan, the newly elected president made clear he desires direct communication with his staff.

To make good on his promises to have a more open government, Moon held a press conference two hours after his inauguration to personally announce his picks for chief of staff, the new intelligence chief and prime minister.

On Friday, the Blue House also released video clips and photos of Moon having tea with his secretaries in a garden in the Blue House compound without jackets, projecting an image of openness and casualness at odds with his immediate predecessor.

For lunch Friday, Moon visited the Blue House cafeteria and stood in a line like everybody else, a scene that managed to charm the public.

During the campaign and in his inauguration address, the former human rights lawyer vowed to get rid of “authoritarian practices in the presidency” that were rooted in the military governments of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He campaigned on a promise to move the presidential office to the government complex in the Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, area and said he would commute to work from his presidential residence. He said he hoped to have drinks with ordinary people on his way home from work. While Moon made a first step in being more communicative by moving into Yeomingwan, it could be years before he settles in the government complex in Gwanghwamun. To relocate, he would need a special budget reviewed and approved by the National Assembly in the later half of this year.

Moon continued his charm offensive Saturday by inviting reporters covering his administration to a two-hour hike on a trail starting from the Blue House to Mount Bugak. During the two-hour hike, the president and around 50 reporters talked about a range of issues in a casual manner. The group agreed in advance not to publish details of the conversation.

The same day, Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook moved into the presidential residence from their Hongeun-dong residence after days of repair work was finished.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr ]