Welcome to Yongsan Children’s Garden; Your Choices are Yoon Suk-yeol or Blank

"What is this, North Korea?"

Welcome to Yongsan Children’s Garden; Your Choices are Yoon Suk-yeol or Blank

Photo: Coloring worksheet at Yongsan Children's Garden, showing Yoon Suk-yeol and his wife Kim Geon-hee playing with their dogs.  Credit: Kim Eun-hee.

The very first project of Yoon Suk-yeol’s 윤석열 presidency was to move the Office of the President from the Blue House 청와대 to the Defense Ministry 국방부 compound in Yongsan 용산. (See previous coverage, “Yoon Evicts the Defense Ministry”). To mollify critics, who saw the move as pointless and unnecessary, Yoon dedicated a portion of the Defense Ministry compound as the new Yongsan Children’s Garden 용산 어린이정원 to symbolize that his presidency would be an accessible one.

Accessible for some, at least. On August 10, Hankyoreh 한겨레 reported that six Yongsan residents were banned from entering the Children’s Garden for sharing online the coloring activity worksheets handed out to children visiting the park. The worksheets featured four different designs showing Yoon happily taking a group selfie or playing with his dogs. Online commenters were not charmed, noting: “What is this, North Korea? Not even [the dictator] Park Chung-hee 박정희 did anything like this.” The Office of the President responded that children (or parents) who prefer not to color in cute pictures of Yoon are free to request blank sheets of paper.

It is not clear on what basis the six individuals were banned from the park. In response to media inquiries, the Presidential Security Service 대통령 경호처 initially passed the buck to the park management company, which only said it banned the individuals based on “a request from the relevant government bureau,” while declining to identify which bureau. After  news coverage of the incident grew, the Presidential Security Service held a press conference on August 12 to claim that the Yongsan residents were banned not because of their online posts, but due to “illegal actions” on the part of those individuals. The security service did not specify what the illegal actions were.

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