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Guest house issue causes controversy among politicians

Posted September. 17, 2022 07:23,   

Updated September. 17, 2022 07:23


After the government set aside 87.8 billion won (63 million U.S. dollars) in the state budget for constructing a guest house for the presidential office, the main opposition Democratic Party vowed “to cut the entire amount.” Since both the presidential office and the ruling People Power Party are stressing the need for a new guest house, the rival parties are set on a collision course during the parliamentary review of next year’s state budget.

“The government included nearly 90 billion won for the construction of a new presidential guest house in the 2023 state budget,” Democratic Party floor leader Park Hong-geun said at a meeting of the party’s supreme council. “I urge President Yoon Suk-yeol to immediately apologize for lying about the expense for relocation of the presidential office.”

“I was shocked. 87.8 billion won is an amount that can be used to pay nearly 10 million won each 10,000 victims of flash floods,” Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung said. “We should respect public opinion. As we control majority seats in the National Assembly, we should block the approval of a budget that runs counter to public opinion.”

“Many people will have consensus that the country needs a new guest house living up to the era of Yongsan,” the presidential office said. “While the presidential office has hosted a number of events for citizens and foreign guests at different places after the relocation of the president’s office to Yongsan, these events have inevitably caused inconvenience to the public and entailed higher security costs,” an official at the presidential office told reporters on the day. “To some extent, it is inevitable to prepare a space where the president can receive domestic and foreign guests in a way that promotes national interest and lives up to the nation’s global stature.”

The People Power Party is also determined to keep the budget for a new guest house intact as set aside by the government. “The poor condition of the existing guest house at the previous presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae was something that even former President Moon Jae-in’s protocol secretary Tak Hyun-min admitted. Repairing and renovating the guest house at Cheong Wa Dae will also require significant expense.”

As a result, the budget for constructing a new guest house will likely become a contentious issue in the review of next year’s state budget, which will take place during the plenary session of the National Assembly. The Democratic Party, with the majority seat, plans to cut this budget during the review at the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts. Still, if the rival parties fail to agree on the bill by December 9, the government’s bill will be automatically submitted to the parliamentary plenary session.

eunji@donga.com · djc@donga.com