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Yoon Suk-yeol sworn in as South Korean president, hopes for peace with North

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Yoon Suk-yeol sworn in as South Korean president, hopes for peace with North
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took the oath of office on Tuesday in Seoul, vowing to usher in rapid economic growth and offering an opportunity to North Korea to return to dialogue. Photo courtesy of the Republic of Korea

May 10 (UPI) -- South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn in on Tuesday, vowing to overcome social divisions through rapid economic growth and opening the door to engagement with North Korea.

Yoon gave an inaugural address at Seoul's National Assembly Plaza, citing "multiple crises" that South Korea and the world are facing, from pandemics to global supply chain disruptions to the climate crisis to armed conflicts.

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"Such complex, multi-faceted crises are casting a long and dark shadow over us," Yoon, 61, said before a crowd of 41,000 attending the ceremony.

"However, nothing is impossible," Yoon continued. "We can overcome the challenges that we face today and the ones that we will undoubtedly have to face in the future. Koreans have a long and proud history that demonstrates our unshakable resolve."

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The country's former chief prosecutor officially began his five-year term at midnight, where he was briefed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula in an underground bunker at his new presidential office building.

The conservative Yoon, who won a tight race in March against the challenger from the incumbent Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung, has vowed to take a stronger stance toward North Korea.

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Pyongyang has unleashed a flurry of missile tests since the beginning of the year and appears poised to test a nuclear weapon, but Yoon held out the promise of dialogue and economic cooperation with the North Tuesday -- provided the recalcitrant regime fully denuclearizes.

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"While North Korea's nuclear weapon programs are a threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia, the door to dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat," Yoon said.

"If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea's economy and improve the quality of life for its people."

Yoon also said that a new era of economic growth built on "science, technology and innovation" would help resolve many of South Korea's domestic problems, including widening inequality and social divisions that were amplified during the presidential campaign season.

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"Rapid growth will open up new opportunities," Yoon said. "It will improve social mobility, thereby helping us rid of the fundamental obstacles that are aggravating social divide and conflicts."

President Yoon begins his term at a new office building on the site of the former defense ministry headquarters, following up on a campaign pledge to relocate the presidency from its traditional Cheong Wa Dae, or Blue House, home.

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