President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol finally got together, 19 days after the March 9 election, Monday evening.
Moon and Yoon last met at the Blue House at an anticorruption meeting in June 2020. Yoon was prosecutor general.
Previously, the longest time it took for a president to meet the president-elect was 18 days in 1992 between President Roh Tae-woo and his successor Kim Young-sam.
According to KoreaJoongang, They had dinner at the Sangchunje guest house at the Blue House in central Seoul at 6 p.m., accompanied by Moon’s chief of staff, Yoo Young-min, and main opposition People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Chang Je-won, Yoon’s chief of staff.
It has never taken as long as 19 days after an election for an outgoing president to meet with his successor.
Yoon told reporters earlier Monday that there was “no special agenda” set for the meeting but that “the livelihoods of the people and security issues could come up.”
Kim Eun-hye, Yoon’s spokesperson, also said in a briefing Monday morning, “I think the issue of Covid-19 relief would be dealt with most urgently above everything else.”
Yoon has pushed for an additional supplementary budget of 50 trillion won ($40.7 billion) for Covid-19 recovery. The Moon government has not been keen on approving of any additional budget in its remaining weeks.
Another key issue is Yoon’s plan to move the presidential office to the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan District, central Seoul. Moon, while not technically opposed to the relocation, is concerned that a security vacuum could result from rushing a move by the start of Yoon’s five-year term on May 10.
In a meeting with his aides Monday, just hours before the meeting with Yoon, Moon stressed the need for the incoming government to succeed and build upon the achievements of the previous administration.
“The present is history that has been accumulated from the past, and the Republic of Korea has advanced constantly in the midst of hardships and the ups and downs of its modern history,” Moon said. “This is the result of successive governments inheriting the achievements of previous governments, supplementing their deficiencies, and developing upon them.”
A one-on-one luncheon scheduled for March 16 was cancelled at the last minute after Moon and Yoon’s teams failed to set an agenda in preparatory talks.
The two sides have butted heads over personnel appointments and the idea of a special pardon for former President Lee Myung-bak, who has been serving a 17-year sentence for embezzlement and bribery since 2018.
The two sides held numerous consultations since last Friday to reschedule talks, and Moon and Yoon’s spokesperson announced the newly scheduled date Sunday, with both sides promising “candid dialogue” without a set agenda.