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Yoon set for weeklong vacation in Geoje

Cabinet reshuffle could follow president's 1st out-of-town recess

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : July 31, 2023 - 15:21

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (third from right) holds an eel during his visit to Jagalchi Market in Busan on Thursday (Presidential Office) President Yoon Suk Yeol (third from right) holds an eel during his visit to Jagalchi Market in Busan on Thursday (Presidential Office)

President Yoon Suk Yeol is looking to go on a weeklong vacation at a presidential vacation home in early August, according to the presidential office on Monday.

Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee are to go to the presidential retreat of Cheonghaedae in Geoje, South Gyeongsang Province, from Wednesday to Aug. 8. This, however, would not mean they will stay out of touch, leaving open possibilities for them to make public appearances during the vacation, through events like visiting remote areas of South Korea to connect with rural communities and their issues.

Yoon's decision "originates from the presidential aides' suggestion" due to his workload issues, a presidential spokesperson told reporters. Yoon has visited numerous countries this year including, most recently, Ukraine.

In his first vacation since his inauguration in 2022, Yoon spent most of his time at his private residence in Seocho-gu, Seoul during a five-day break early in August 2022, canceling his initial plan to go to southern parts of the Korean Peninsula.

Yoon remained secluded aside from a public appearance with his wife at a performing arts theater in Daehangno, Seoul during his vacation last year.

All eyes are on what the next step would be for Yoon upon his return, as presidential vacations have often held significance as a watershed moment for a president's policy direction.

Late former President Kim Young-sam's groundbreaking announcements, such as a new policy to uproot financial transactions under false names and a decision to seek charges of corruption and treason for the role in military coups that two of his predecessors -- Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo -- had played, came out immediately after his return to office following a vacation.

This led to the coining of the term "Cheongnamdae conception” among political circles at the time, referring to the former presidential retreat in North Chungcheong Province.

Disgraced former President Park Geun-hye, on the other hand, spent time at the presidential vacation home Cheonghaedae.

Other predecessors, including the late liberal Roh Moo-hyun and liberal Moon Jae-in, have publicized the books they read during the vacation.

For this year, after his return Yoon is poised to go on a trip to the United States for a trilateral summit with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The venue for the trilateral meeting was confirmed to be Camp David, a presidential retreat about 110 kilometers away from the White House. His trip will begin on Aug. 18.

On the domestic front, presidential pardons could be issued to celebrate Liberation Day on Aug. 15.

Meanwhile, Yoon faces political backlash for nominations of key figures in state government bodies.

Yoon's decision Friday to nominate his presidential aide Lee Dong-gwan as the new chief of the Korea Communications Commission is being met with strong opposition from the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, saying Lee had been one of the figures behind the suppression of the freedom of speech during the former conservative Lee Myung-bak administration. Upon his nomination, Lee Dong-gwan vowed to fight the spread of "fake news," including a rumor about his personal life.

There are also speculations that Yoon might be turning to a Cabinet reshuffle, as no major reshuffle has been carried out since he took office in 2022.

Other issues include Japan's imminent release of treated wastewater from the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as well as contentious bills such as the "Yellow Envelope Bill" aimed at restricting company management from seeking damages against workers on strike.

Meanwhile, Yoon's approval rating on Monday slightly rose 0.7 percentage point to 37.3 percent, ending a downtrend over the previous three weeks, according to a poll of 2,517 respondents who are eligible voters by Realmeter.

This shows a stark contrast from his predecessors, including Moon, whose approval rating in the summer of his second year in office exceeded 70 percent.