State affairs to pet dogs, range of topics on Moon-Yoon dinner table

From impending state affairs and national security to their pet dogs, President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol discussed a wide range of issues in their belated meeting Monday, which came after weeks of tension.

On Monday evening, Moon and Yoon first greeted each other in the front garden space of Sangchunje guest house at Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office. The meeting, which began at 6 p.m. and lasted for two and a half hours, was also attended by Moon’s Chief of Staff Yoo Young-min and Yoon’s Chief of Staff Chang Je-won.

The dinner meeting took place after the most prolonged delay of 19 days after the presidential election. The initial meeting was canceled at the last minute with the two clashing over several state affairs issues, including the relocation of the presidential office.

In their greetings, Moon explained about the trees, flowers and the venue, Sangchunje. It is the first time the president and the president-elect held their meeting there, as predecessors usually held their meetings in the presidential residence or a main administrative building of the Cheong Wa Dae complex.

The menu for the dinner consisted of seven plates, including bibimbap with spring herbs. Starting with seasonal seafood cold salad and pine nut porridge as the appetizer, they had Korean beef ribs, cooked vegetables and grilled blackthroat seaperch, with red wine. Doenjang jjigae (bean paste stew) with short-necked clams was also in the menu.

In a press briefing following their meeting, Yoon’s Chief of Staff Chang explained how the president and the president-elect appeared to be sincerely respectful of each other.

“The two were seen as determined to make a smooth transfer of regimes and to lessen the worries of the people,” Chang said on Monday.

During their conversations, the two talked about the relocation of the presidential office.

Cheong Wa Dae, with its symbolic blue-tiled roof in Jongno-gu, Seoul, has been serving as the presidential office for most of South Korea’s seven-decade history. But with Yoon making it an election pledge to relocate the presidential office to the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Moon’s office has been expressing concerns of a security vacuum.

“President Moon said the current government will cooperate with (the relocation) after closely examining the budget according to the exact relocation plan,” Yoon’s Chief of Staff Chang explained to reporters on Monday.

But the two did not talk about the procedural details related to Yoon’s request for using the reserve fund to relocate the office before his inauguration in May, Chang added.

As both Moon and Yoon are known to be animal lovers, the two also talked about their pets, according to Chang.

“They talked about their past relationship. Their pets share the same name, and they also talked about Tori,” Chang said.

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has seven companion animals — four dogs and three cats — which would become the nation’s “first pets” after he is inaugurated on May 10. One of the dogs is named Tori, a name also shared by one of Moon’s dogs. Moon adopted Tori in 2017, after he entered the presidential office.

During the meeting, Yoon asked for Moon’s support. Moon responded that he would give it, and told Yoon to make use of his experience serving as the country’s president.

Ending their meeting, President Moon gifted Yoon with a necktie, and wished him success in managing the next government.

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