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Park Geun-hye was sworn in as South Korea’s president promising a tough stance on national security and an era of economic revival.

Park Geun-hye, who defeated liberal rival Moon Jae-in in December’s general election, took the oath of office in front of tens of thousands of people.

North Korea’s recent nuclear test posed a “challenge to the survival” of the Korean people, she said.

Trust-building was needed to tackle the “extremely serious” security situation.

Park Geun-hye, 61, the first woman to lead South Korea, succeeds President Lee Myung-bak, of the same Saenuri Party, who stepped down as the law required after a five-year term.

She is the daughter of former military strongman Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea for almost two decades.

Park Geun-hye takes office amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula in the wake of a North Korean nuclear test, on February 12.

In her inauguration speech, Park Geun-hye said she would “not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation”.

“North Korea’s recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people, and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself.”

Calling on North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, she said that in a challenging security environment South Korea could not “afford to remain where we are”.

A trust-building process was needed, she said, promising to move forward “step-by-step on the basis of credible deterrence”.

“Trust can be built through dialogue and by honoring promises that have already been made,” she said.

“It is my hope that North Korea will abide by international norms and make the right choice so that the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula can move forward.”


Park Geun-hye was sworn in as South Korea's president promising a tough stance on national security and an era of economic revival

Park Geun-hye was sworn in as South Korea’s president promising a tough stance on national security and an era of economic revival

North Korea’s nuclear test – its third – followed its apparently successful launch of a three-stage rocket to put a satellite into orbit in December. That launch was condemned by the US Security Council as a banned test of missile technology; diplomatic efforts to agree a response to the nuclear test are ongoing.

Ties between the two Koreas chilled considerably under Lee Myung-bak over his move to link aid to concessions on the nuclear issue. Ahead of the election Park Geun-hye had spoken out on the need for more dialogue but the recent nuclear test may make it harder for her to appear conciliatory towards Pyongyang, observers say.

On the economy, Park Geun-hye promised more focus on a “creative economy” founded in “economic democratization” that would expand beyond existing markets and sectors.

South Korea’s economic growth has slowed, the population is rapidly ageing, and demands for a fairer division of wealth are now being voiced on both sides of the political divide.

Policies would be brought in to help small and medium-sized enterprises flourish, Park Geun-hye said.

“By rooting out various unfair practices and rectifying the misguided habits of the past… we will provide active support to ensure that everyone can live up to their fullest potential,” she added, in an apparent nod to resentment towards the country’s giant “chaebol” conglomerates.

She also promised a “clean, transparent and competent government”.

“I will endeavor to shed popular distrust of government and strive to elevate the capital of trust,” she said.

Park Geun-hye:

  • Daughter of former President Park Chung-hee
  • Served as South Korea’s first lady after her mother was murdered by a North Korean gunman in 1974
  • First elected to the national assembly in 1998
  • First bid for the presidency in 2007
  • Has promised to redistribute wealth, reform big conglomerates and seek greater engagement with North Korea

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South Korea’s new elected President Park Geun-hye spoke of a “grave” security challenge from North Korea but called for “trust-based dialogue”.

Park Geun-hye, the ruling Saenuri Party candidate, defeated her liberal rival Moon Jae-in in Wednesday’s election.

Speaking after a visit to honor late leaders, she pledged again to “open a new era” on the Korean Peninsula.

The North has not yet commented on her victory, but earlier labeled the Saenuri Party “maniacs”.

A dispatch from state media outlet KCNA, released on Wednesday, accused the party of escalating tension on the peninsula during President Lee Myung-bak’s time in office.

“All facts prove that the Saenuri Party is a group of traitors who stoop to any infamy to realize its ambition to seize power,” the story said.

The North launched a rocket that put a satellite into orbit last week, a move condemned by the international community as a banned test of missile technology.

Park Geun-hye, daughter of former military strongman Park Chung-hee, will become South Korea’s first female president.

President Barack Obama congratulated her, calling South Korea “a lynchpin” of security in Asia.

“Our two nations share a global partnership with deep economic, security and people-to-people ties,” Barack Obama said in a statement.

South Korea's new elected President Park Geun-hye spoke of a grave security challenge from North Korea but called for trust-based dialogue

South Korea’s new elected President Park Geun-hye spoke of a grave security challenge from North Korea but called for trust-based dialogue

The election race saw high turnout, with 75.8% of the electorate casting their ballots. With more than 99% of the vote counted, Park Geun-hye had won 51.6% of the vote to Moon Jae-in’s 48%.

Economic issues including welfare spending, job creation and inequality had dominated campaigning, while the national security focus fell on North Korea.

“The launch of North Korea’s long-range missile symbolically showed how grave the security situation facing us is,” Park Geun-hye said after a visit to the National Cemetery to pay her respects to former leaders.

“I will keep the promise I made to you to open a new era on the Korean peninsula, based on strong security and trust-based diplomacy.”

Relations with North Korea under Lee Myung-bak – who linked the provision of aid to progress on denuclearization – have been poor.

Park Geun-hye has promised greater engagement than her predecessor and the possible resumption of aid, but also a robust defence.

South Korea is also one of several nations currently seeking a strong response to North Korea’s recent rocket launch in the UN Security Council.

On the economy, the president-elect said she would work “to make the society share economic benefits without anybody isolated from the fruits of the economic growth”.

Economic growth has fallen to about 2% after several decades in which it averaged 5.5%.

And in an apparent nod to tensions with Japan over a territorial dispute and historical issues, she said she would work for ” greater reconciliation, co-operation and peace in North East Asia based on correct perception of history”.

Park Geun-hye’s defeated rival, former human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, also offered his congratulations, saying he accepted the outcome of the polls.

“I feel so sorry and guilty that I have failed to accomplish my historic mission to open a new era of politics,” he said.

Park geun-hye’s campaign was both bolstered and dogged by the legacy of her father, who built South Korea’s economy while crushing dissent.

With the country having split almost equally along party lines, Park Geun-hye will have to work hard to improve relations with her detractors.

Who is Park Geun-hye?

  • Daughter of former President Park Chung-hee
  • Served as South Korea’s first lady after her mother was murdered by a North Korean gunman in 1974
  • First elected to the national assembly in 1998; first bid for the presidency in 2007
  • Has promised to redistribute wealth, reform big conglomerates and seek greater engagement with North Korea

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Presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye, the daughter of South Korea’s former leader Park Chung-hee, has apologized for human rights violations committed during her father’s rule.

Park Geun-hye is the ruling party candidate for presidential elections in December.

Park Chung-hee seized power in a military coup in 1961 and ruled until he was assassinated by his spy chief in 1979.

He boosted the economy but was accused of ruthlessly crushing dissent, delaying democratic development.

Park Geun-hye is the ruling party candidate for the South Korean presidential elections in December

Park Geun-hye is the ruling party candidate for the South Korean presidential elections in December

Park Geun-hye, 60, secured the ruling party nomination for the polls last month, marking the first time a woman has been chosen as a presidential candidate by one of South Korea’s main political parties.

But she has been battling her father’s legacy since the very beginning of her presidential campaign.

Park Chung-hee is credited with kick-starting South Korea’s economic success, but many younger and liberal voters see his human rights record as a blot on the country’s history.

Addressing a news conference, Park Geun-hye said her father had prioritized economic growth and national security issues.

“Behind the stellar growth were sacrifices by workers who suffered under a repressive labor environment,” she said.

“Behind the efforts for national security to protect [ourselves] from North Korea were human rights abuses committed by state power.”

Offering sincere apologies, she said: “I believe that it is an unchanging value of democracy that ends cannot justify the means in politics.”

Park Geun-hye remains ahead in opinion polls for the 19 December election.

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