New leader stresses national security

Dec. 20, 2012 at 12:15 AM
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SEOUL, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Park Geun-hye, elected South Korea's first woman president, Thursday put national security at the top of her agenda because of the threat from North Korea.

"I will keep my promise to the people without fail that I will open up a new era of the Korean Peninsula through strong national security and trust-based diplomacy," the president-elect, daughter of the late Gen. Park Chung-hee, whose presidency ended in 1979 with his assassination, told reporters at her party headquarters.

The election of Park Geun-hye from the ruling conservative Saenuri Party was confirmed early Thursday by the National Election Commission following a closely contested race after she defeated Moon Jae-in, a human rights lawyer-turned-politician from the opposition Democratic United Party, Yonhap News reported. Park won Wednesday's poll with 51.6 percent of the votes, while Moon won 47.9 percent.

Park will succeed President Lee Myung-bak at the end of his five-year term and will be sworn in Feb. 25.

Her election comes as the nuclear-armed North Korea led by its young leader Kim Jong Un continues with its provocations, raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Earlier this month, the North, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, fired off a long-range rocket, which the U.N. said used ballistic missile technology, to launch what it called a satellite in space, which was widely condemned.

"This election was held in the middle of rapid changes in the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula. North Korea's long-range missile launch symbolically showed the gravity of the security reality we are faced with," Park said, Yonhap reported.

The concern is that the North may be developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons as the Communist country already has conducted two nuclear tests in the past.

Park said she will also try to promote reconciliation, cooperation and peace in Northeast Asia based on a "correct perception of history." Yonhap said the comment was seen as being directed at Japan, Korea's former colonial ruler which Koreans say is yet to fully repent its militaristic past.

She said she believed her election has given her a mission to "push wisely forward" through crises brought on by regional tensions arising from sovereignty and history spats in Northeast Asia and the global economic difficulties.

In his congratulatory message to Park, U.S. President Barack Obama said he looked forward to "working closely" with her administration to further enhance "our extensive cooperation" on a wide range of important bilateral, regional and global issues.

He said the U.S.-South Korea alliance "serves as a linchpin of peace and security in the Asia Pacific and our two nations share a global partnership with deep economic, security, and people-to-people ties."

During her campaign, Park had said: "I have no family to take care of. I have no child to inherit my properties. You, the people, are my only family, and to make you happy is the reason I do politics. And if elected, I would govern like a mother dedicated to her family."

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