Park puts security top concern for Seoul

Dec. 21, 2012 at 12:05 AM
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SEOUL, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye put top priority on national security, saying North Korea's successful long-range rocket launch shows the "grave" situation between the two Koreas.

Yonhap News Agency reported her saying at her Saenuri Party headquarters that the election was conducted amid rapid security and political changes in the divided Korean Peninsula.

"North Korea's long-range missile launch symbolically showed how grave the security reality we face is," she said.

Park also addressed wider regional issues and international relations, with a special comment regarding Japan.

The Yonhap report said she will promote reconciliation, cooperation and peace in northeast Asia based on a "correct perception of history."

The remark is seen as targeting Korea's former colonial ruler Japan that has long been accused of failing to fully repent for its militaristic past, Yonhap said.

Park, 60, will be the first woman to lead South Korea when she is sworn into office Feb. 15, taking over from the party's President Lee Myung-bak, who constitutionally couldn't run for office again.

Park, who will be South Korea's 18th president, won this week's election with 51.6 percent of the vote against Moon Jae-in and his liberal Democratic United Party's 47.9 percent.

Moon is a 59-year-old legislator, former human rights lawyer and chief of staff to former President Roh Moo-hyun, who was president from 2003-08.

Park is the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, a former junta general who seized power in a military coup in 1961. He was elected president in 1963, a post he held until he was assassinated by the chief of his own security services in October 1979.

Her mother, Yook Young-su, was killed in an assassination attempt on her father by a pro-North Korean man in 1974.

Park used her first day after the election to visit to the National Cemetery in Seoul where she paid her respects before the graves of her father and two other former presidents -- South Korea's founding leader Syngman Rhee and Kim Dae-jung.

Yonhap said Park left a visitor's message that read, "I will open up a new era of fresh changes and reforms."

She later met the ambassadors of the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Park comes to power at a time of increased tension between communist North Korea and South, still technically at war since 1953 when the peninsula was divided between the opposing armies.

Tensions escalated further earlier this month after North Korea's rocket launch which was condemned as a violation of U.N. resolutions, although the government in Pyongyang said it carried an observation satellite into orbit.

"It is a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009), in which the Council demanded that (North Korea) not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

The fear is that the rocket technology could be used to carry nuclear warheads. The country reportedly conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

North Korea's government-controlled Korean Central News Agency has ignored Park's election.

It remains to be seen if Park's election and the coming to power of a new leader in North Korea will ease relations on the peninsula.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un -- thought to be in his late 20s -- came to power shortly after his father, Kim Jong Il died in December 2011.

Kim Jong Un has little military background although his two dead older brothers were generals. Kim Song U died in 2009 and Kim Song Gil died in 2006.

In April during his first televised speech, and only days after an embarrassing failed rocket launch, he claimed he would boost the country's military strength.

The policy of "military first" remains the cornerstone of Pyongyang's strength, Kim said in his open air address to an armed forces parade in the main square of Pyongyang.

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